Lawfully Loved (Texas Lawkeeper Romance)(3)

By: Jenna Brandt


With concerted effort, Jake climbed to his feet. As he turned to find Ginger, his eyes grew round with concern. The horse was whimpering and she wasn’t placing weight on her right leg. Jake moved towards her and gently lifted the leg from the muddy water. There was a huge crack on her hoof as well as a deep gash at the first joint. What could have caused such a horrific injury?

He placed his hand into the mud. Below the surface, he felt the edge of something rough and hard. Although he couldn’t see it, he was certain it was a large rock, most likely brought down by a mudslide from a nearby hill.

Jake reached out and took Ginger’s muzzle into his hands. He leaned his face against hers and whispered, “It’s alright, girl. You did the best you could. This is my fault. I shouldn’t have pushed you so hard.”

With deep regret, Jake contemplated what to do. When a horse broke its leg, there was only one thing to do, but he hoped it wasn’t the case.

He tried to swallow the lump of pain in his throat. Ginger was the last connection to his past; a gift from his wife, Marjorie, during their final Christmas together. She had saved up money to purchase the horse for two years, washing laundry at the Abilene Inn.

Lightning cracked across the sky, illuminating the air for just a moment. Not far off in the distance, Jake saw the flickering gas lights of a small town. Maybe Ginger could make it to Rockwood Springs—which was closer than Woody—if he helped her stay off the leg.

As he ran his hand through his hair, he sighed. With a heavy heart, he removed the saddle and attached bag from Ginger to make her load lighter. With determined resolve, he started the walk to Rockwood Springs with Ginger beside him.





Two





Rebecca was working in the kitchen on dinner when she heard a commotion from down the hall. The shuffling of feet made her turn in the direction of the noise, finding her mother coming into focus.

As per usual, the older blonde woman was in a nightgown with only a robe around her and her appearance was disheveled. Her hair was out of place and her eyes were darting around the room in a confused look.

“What time is it?” her mother asked.

“It’s almost dinner time, Mother,” Rebecca replied as she walked over to her. “Are you hungry?”

The woman shook her head. “No, I just wanted you to read to me again. You know how a story is the only thing that makes me feel calm.”

Rebecca held back the sigh she wanted to release. Her mother had been sick from the time she could remember with an incurable unknown ailment which caused mental fragility. The family did the best they could to keep her content, but the lack of her faculties was felt by the entire Caldwell clan.

“Why don’t I take you back into your room and have Lydia read to you?” Rebecca offered as she put her arm around her mother’s shoulder. “I need to finish up dinner. I’ll send a plate in when it’s ready.”

The older woman pulled away and said in a shrill, accusing voice, “But you know you reading to me makes me the happiest.”

“Mother, I want to read to you, but I have to get this meal finished for the family. How about I read the Bible to you before bed?”

Reluctantly, the older woman nodded and allowed Rebecca to guide her back to her room.

A few minutes later, Rebecca was putting the finishing touches on dinner when she heard Georgie yell from the family room, “There’s a man outside.”

She made her way from the kitchen at the back of the house towards where all the commotion was happening. Her brother was looking through the front window.

“Get away from there, Georgie,” their father ordered as he walked over to the door and opened it.

On the other side stood a tall man in a wet duster coat, boots and hat, the latter which he promptly removed. Peeking out from the edge of his coat and on top of his vest was a silver star. He also had a saddle and bag slung over his shoulder.

The stranger looked up and made eye contact with her father, stating, “Good evening, mister. My name’s Jake Bolton. I’m a deputy sheriff out of Abilene.”

“What brings you out to these parts, Deputy?”

“I was making my way to Woody to follow up on a reported sighting of the Grimes brothers when my horse was injured.” He paused for a moment before continuing. “She barely made it here. I saw the sign for the livery and needed to find out how bad the damage is to her leg.”