Lawfully Loved (Texas Lawkeeper Romance)(13)

By: Jenna Brandt

The men spent the next half hour buying Jake drinks and talking to him about his time in the battalion. He kept glancing at Rebecca, who was patiently waiting at a nearby table with a glass of sarsaparilla in hand. All he wanted to do was get free from them and return to her side.

Finally having enough, he politely excused himself. “Pardon me, but I’ve a lovely woman waiting for me over there.”

Jake walked over, but just as he arrived at the table, a brown-haired willowy woman sat down next to Rebecca, paying no attention to her surroundings.

“Howdy, Rebecca. I saw you sitting over here by yourself and I thought I would come over and keep you company.”

Standing over them, Jake made a “humph” sound under his voice.

Both women’s attention turned to Jake. The new woman gave him a smile as she stated, “I heard there was a deputy staying in town,” she turned back to Rebecca and added, “and you’d been seen spending time with him.”

Rebecca’s face turned pink as she averted her eyes for a moment. She clasped her hands together in her lap, wringing her hands before she looked up. “Deputy Sheriff Jake Bolton, may I introduce to you, Miss Judy Lambert. Her family owns one of the largest cattle ranches in all of northern Taylor County, situated on the land south of the livery.”

“Pleased to meet you, Deputy. Rebecca and I go way back—all the way to the cradle—and I’ve three older brothers, so I would suggest you be on your best behavior in regards to her. Otherwise, you won’t like what happens.”

Rebecca gasped as her eyes grew round with shock. “Judy, don’t threaten him. He’s a man of the law and wouldn’t do anything unseemly.”

Judy shrugged. “A shiny star doesn’t make you a saint,” she said pointedly. “So I just want him to know that around here our menfolk protect our women from anyone who poses a hazard.”

Rebecca started to object, but Jake raised his hand and looked at her. “It’s alright, Rebecca. I understand from where your friend is coming. Her fierce loyalty is commendable.” Turning his attention to Judy, he promised, “I’ll never do anything to hurt your friend.”

The vow seemed to suffice Judy, who stood up with a smile on her face. “I see one of my brothers waving to me. I’ll see you tomorrow at church, right Rebecca?”

With a nod, Rebecca replied, “I’ll be there.”

Judy sauntered off across the town square to her waiting brother.

With a chuckle, Jake stated, “You sure have a lot of people interested in your goings-on.”

“It’s what you get in a small town.”

Jake sat down next to Rebecca. “Not sure I’m used to it. I’ve lived in cities all my life. I grew up in Houston and moved around from home to home with extended family after my parents died. As soon as I was eighteen, I took off and joined the Frontier Battalion. I lived in San Antonio while I was enlisted and then I moved to Abilene for the deputy position.”

“I’ve lived here all my life. I can’t even imagine living in such a big place as any of those cities.”

Jake realized they came from completely different backgrounds. What would it be like to live in such a small town, he wondered?

“So, if I’m to understand correctly, you’re not only a state hero but also a legend?” Rebecca asked, breaking his train of thought.

He shrugged. “I did do all the things they said, but those were a small amount of what I did on a regular basis. I mostly helped settle disputes between farmers and ranchers as well as escort prisoners and track down outlaws when needed,” Jake explained.

“You seemed uncomfortable with all the attention on your past time in the battalion. Why is that?”

Jake pressed his lips together and thought about his answer. Rebecca was right about his reaction. “I don’t like the attention, never have. I did my job and somehow that led to this reputation that precedes me. Sometimes, I feel like once they hear who I am, all they see is a man I haven’t been in many years.”

“Why did you leave?” Rebecca asked.

“After the death of Major Jones, several of the captains resigned. The battalion was never the same after that. I decided it was time to move on and settle down.”