Lawfully Loved (Texas Lawkeeper Romance)(2)

By: Jenna Brandt

Rebecca made her way around the side of the farmhouse which sat on the same property as the family business—the local livery. As she entered the barn-like structure, she looked around and located her father in front of one of the stalls.

“Father, I’m done working outside and wanted to let you know dinner will be ready in about an hour.”

Although brilliant with a horse, Mr. Caldwell often got lost in his thoughts while working with them. He needed constant reminding to finish up his work on time as he often forgot to come in for meals.

The middle-aged, thin man with peppered brown hair and blue eyes— the same color as Rebecca’s—glanced up from combing down the colt he had been training all day. “Thank you for reminding me. I’ll make sure to not forget this time.”

With a nod of her head, Rebecca turned around and moved towards the house. She saw her younger sister, Lydia, run past, and a few moments later, her younger brother, Georgie, chase after, calling, “You better find a good hiding place; I’m gonna find you.”

Rebecca smiled to herself at the cuteness of her siblings. Lydia was like a miniature version of Rebecca with her curly blonde hair and blue eyes. Being only ten, she still loved dolls and playing games with the local children. Georgie was sandwiched between them at the age of fourteen and was a rascal at heart. He was getting to the age where he was playing less and noticing girls more, but every once in a while, Lydia could still talk him into playing with her.

As she heard Georgie stomping around the yard looking for Lydia, she reminisced on a time—years ago—when she was able to be carefree like that. She had been forced to grow up quickly when her mother’s condition worsened. Rebecca had to take over running the family home and caring for her siblings. She justified her lost childhood as preparation for married life; it would make her a better candidate for a wife.

Although not of spinster age at twenty-one, Rebecca knew it was time for her to start considering finding a husband. Life was hard on the Texas prairie and she needed a man to protect her when her father was no longer able to do so. She wanted to marry for love, but the practicality of finding it was not wasted on her. She knew there was a real possibility she might have to settle for a relationship built solitarily on friendship.

As Rebecca climbed the back steps of the house, she heard her brother and sister laugh with merriment. Apparently, Georgie had found Lydia after all. Rebecca made her way into the kitchen where she pulled out several pots and pans to start the evening meal.

* * *

The wind howled in Jake’s ear as it raced along the back of his neck, sending a shiver up his spine. He had hoped to make it to Woody before the onslaught, but the clouds had other ideas. Jake pulled the rim of his hat down to shield his eyes from the frigid rain pelting his body.

Jake tightened his grip on the reins to his brown and white paint horse, Ginger, as he pulled her to a stop. Up ahead, the rain had washed out part of the road.

With a heavy sigh, he debated what to do. If he backtracked in order to find a route that bypassed that section of the road, it would delay his arrival in Woody by at least a half day. Should he brave it by trying to cross the muddy area?

Deciding it would be better to take his chances, Jake prodded Ginger forward, gently pushing his spurs into the horse’s side. Usually an obedient horse, it surprised Jake when she sidestepped and hesitated. Did his horse sense something Jake couldn’t see?

With a scan of the area, Jake resolved going ahead was still the best option. Jumping down from his horse, he guided Ginger through the murky water. Coaxing her, he said, “Come on, girl, just a little further. I promise you some primo hay and maybe even a sugar cube or two if you get us safely to Woody by nightfall.”

Reluctantly, the horse complied and started to walk along the road behind Jake. The further they traveled, the deeper the mud got until both of them were finding it difficult to move.

Just as Jake worried they would become stuck, a lightning bolt came crashing down right in front of them. Neighing in fear, Ginger reared up causing Jake to be knocked down. With a hard thud, he pummeled to the ground, knocking the air from his lungs.

The mud sloshed around him, pulling his body deep into its thick grasp. Jake blinked once, twice, three times before he tried to sit up from the murky ground. A sharp pain radiated up his abdomen. Recognizing the feeling, he knew the fall had earned him a set of bruised ribs.