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Authors: Callyand the Sheriff

Cassandra Austin

BOOK: Cassandra Austin
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Cally’s shotgun, of course,
was gone.

“That wasn’t fair,” she whispered.

“Hmm?” Andrew drew away slightly and lifted her chin with his finger. “Are you all right?”

She could almost believe it was a sincere question. She found herself nodding. The odd fevered light was back in his eyes, and she felt her own temperature rise.

“I’m all right. Just don’t talk about…you know.”

“Don’t threaten to shoot me,” he whispered, drawing closer as if he were afraid she couldn’t hear.

She knew she should pull away, but she wasn’t sure her legs were steady yet. She didn’t want to faint right here in front of him. She would let him hold her up a while longer. Meanwhile, she stared at him. How close did he think his lips had to be for her to hear…?

Dear Reader,

Sheriff Andrew Haywood was determined to carry out his promise made to Cally’s dying father that he would look out for her. But the Kansas lawman was in for a surprise when he discovered that Cally didn’t want anything to do with him, despite her father’s wishes.
Cally and the Sheriff do
eventually work things out in Cassandra Austin’s delightful new Western. Don’t miss the fireworks.

Judith Stacy is back this month with
The Marriage Mishap,
the story of virtual strangers who wake up in bed together and discover they have gotten married.

In
Lord Sin
by Catherine Archer, a rakish nobleman and a vicar’s daughter, whose lack of fortune and social position make her completely unsuitable, agree to a marriage of convenience, and discover love. And in Elizabeth Mayne’s
Lady of the Lake,
a pagan princess surrenders her heritage and her heart to the Christian warrior who has been sent to marry her and unite their kingdoms.

Whatever your tastes in reading, we hope you enjoy all of our books, available wherever Harlequin Historicals are sold.

Sincerely,

Tracy Farrell

Senior Editor

Please address questions and book requests to:
Harlequin Reader Service

U.S.: 3010 Walden Ave., P.O. Box 1325, Buffalo, NY 14269
Canadian: P.O. Box 609, Fort Erie, Ont. L2A 5X3

Cally and the Sheriff
Cassandra Austin

Books by Cassandra Austin

Harlequin Historicals

Wait for the Sunrise
#190

Trusting Sarah
#279

Cally and the Sheriff
#381

CASSANDRA AUSTIN

has always lived in north central Kansas, and was raised on museums and arrowhead hunts; when she began writing, America’s Old West seemed the natural setting. Now she writes between—and sometimes during—4H, school events and the various activities of her three children. Her husband farms, and they live in the house where he grew up.

For Dad,
for lots of reasons

Chapter One

Salina, Kansas 1877

C
ally slid off the mule and brushed at the dust on her oversize pants. She didn’t like to come to town and neither did Royal. The poor dog tried to look in every direction at once and wouldn’t get farther from Cally’s side than the long hairs on his back.

Cally tied her father’s mule in front of Mr. Lafferty’s feed store as she always did when she was forced to come to town. She trusted Mr. Lafferty. He didn’t look at her funny the way other people did. Of course, Mr. Lafferty was nearly blind.

She noticed with a little disappointment that Mr. Lafferty had already closed up his store. She hadn’t meant to stop and visit him, but it was always nice to see a friendly face. And he usually fed her mule a little grain while she was gone. “Sweepings,” he would explain. “Spilled the stuff and can’t sell it now.”

She rubbed the old mule’s nose. “Don’t worry,
Jewel, I won’t be long,” she said softly. Squaring her shoulders and drawing herself up to her full five feet two inches, she headed purposefully toward the sheriff’s office. Royal trotted at her side.

Her eyes narrowed when she thought of that low-down sheriff. He had found every weapon she had tried to sneak in to Pa, but he wouldn’t find this one. She had wrapped the butcher knife in leather and tucked it in her pants. He wouldn’t dare find it. Somehow, she would slip it to Pa, or she would use it on that sheriff herself!

She prayed that tonight’s plan would work. The only weapons left at home were the shotgun and the ax. They would be hard to sneak in to Pa.

Outside the sheriffs office, she motioned Royal to stay. He whimpered but complied. She pulled her hat down securely and pushed the door open, letting it slam behind her as she entered. The room was lit only by fading sunlight through the windows and one lamp on the sheriff’s desk. Cally stood for a moment while her eyes adjusted to the dim light.

Sheriff Andrew Haywood was sitting with his long slender legs propped lazily on his desk, his head bent over a book in his lap. His straight dark hair, she noticed not for the first time, was ridiculously neat. He raised his head reluctantly, and snapped the book closed, bringing his boots to the floor with a bang. The cool gaze he leveled on her revealed nothing.

But he didn’t frighten her. “I came to see Pa,” she announced in a firm voice, sending a quick glance toward the cell where her father slumped against the wall.

“What a pleasant surprise.”

Cally sneered at his sarcasm. She watched him come to his feet and walk slowly toward her, his broad shoulders blocking out the rest of the room. She wouldn’t be intimidated by his air of authority or his size. When he stopped two feet in front of her, she was forced to tip her head back in order to look him in the eye. She was proud of her own cool, steady stare.

His chest beneath the perfectly laundered shirt expanded as he took a deep breath. “Hand it over.”

Her eyes narrowed. “I’m unarmed,” she said, perturbed at the way his gaze probed hers. It was all she could do not to look away.

He shook his head slowly. “You’re never unarmed, Miss DuBois.” He pronounced her name the way Pa did, “du Bwah.” Most people said “boys.” He did it to flatter her, to put her off guard.

She gritted her teeth as he continued. “You can’t break your father out of jail. You’ll go to jail yourself. Just give me the gun or knife or whatever you’ve brought this time, and make it easy for both of us.”

Right then she decided she hated his voice. It was smooth and self-assured, deep and soft at the same time. A tempting voice, her mind warned. She could almost believe he really cared.

She stood her ground and watched him look her over. His searching eyes made her want to laugh. He would learn nothing from looking at the baggy clothes.

Abruptly he moved forward. She drew back involuntarily, but only a step. His hands dug into the huge pockets of her overcoat, then searched the hidden
ones inside. She almost relaxed. Did he think she was stupid enough to try the same thing twice?

She smirked until his hands settled on her waist. A jolt like lightning charged through her with his warm touch. She gasped, a combination of surprise and fear. He was so close she could smell the soap his laundress used on his shirt. She watched his eyes light with understanding and tried too late to pull away.

Strong fingers locked around her slender arm while he grabbed a handful of britches that included the knife. She had no choice but to give it up. He wasn’t even gentleman enough to turn his back while she loosened the rope belt and retrieved the leather-wrapped weapon.

She felt her cheeks burn and knew they were fiery red as she readjusted her clothes. She looked up to find his attention elsewhere. He was carefully unrolling the leather. She was pleased, at least, to see his face register some shock at the huge knife.

“I liked it better during the trial when you brought your father pies and such,” Haywood said, carrying the knife to the desk and jerking open a drawer. “What did you plan to do with this?”

Cally looked longingly at the drawer’s contents— Pa’s razor, three knives and a pistol. The butcher knife clanked on top of the others, and Haywood slammed the drawer shut.

He straightened to look her in the eye. She squared her shoulders. “I was going to bury it in your gut.”

Pa spoke for the first time. “Cally girl, I thought I taught you better. That’s no way to talk to an officer of the law.”

Cally exploded. “An officer of the law! He’s a nogood, bushwhacking, bloodthirsty snake!”

Royal’s concerned whimper could be heard through the door.

“Now Cally,” Pa admonished, resting an obviously aching head against the bars.

“Now Cally! Pa! He’s going to hang you!” Saying it aloud brought a sudden lump to her throat. She barely heard Royal as he whined and scratched at the door. She all but forgot about the lean lawman propped against his desk, watching her. Her attention centered on poor Pa behind bars.

“What am I gonna do?” she whispered. She walked slowly toward him.

He took her hand and pulled her into his arms as much as the bars would allow. “Ah, Cally girl, I’m so sorry. But you can’t keep trying to bust me out.”

She wanted to tell him she had to, but she didn’t want the sheriff to overhear. It would be better if he thought she had given up. She tried to fake a sob and it came out a hiccup.

Pa patted her shoulder. “Have you thought about it, Cally? We’d have to run, and what would you have then? You can’t think you could just take me home.”

Of course she had thought about it. It wouldn’t be easy, but she couldn’t just let her father hang. She tried for a more realistic sob.

Andrew leaned against his desk, watching the pair. His desire to give them a few moments in private warred with his conviction that he didn’t dare take his eyes off the girl. From where he stood, he couldn’t see Cally’s face; it was hidden under the brim of her
absurd hat. He heard her sniff as she drew herself out of her father’s arms.

When she reached into her hip pocket, Andrew came automatically to his feet and started toward her. She withdrew a jackknife, snapping it open an instant before he could stop her. Menacing him with it, she demanded, “Get the keys.”

“You’re not serious?” Andrew was more disgusted than frightened.

“Get the keys,” she screamed.

The dog’s bark caught the girl’s attention for an instant. Andrew took the last step that separated them, grabbing for her wrist. Her arm swung up to ward him off, and the blade sliced into his upper arm. Andrew gave a startled grunt as he drew back.

High on Andrew’s right sleeve a red streak appeared and slowly spread downward. Andrew gave it barely a thought. Cally stared at it in horror. She started to sway and the knife clattered to the floor.

With a muttered curse, Andrew caught her shoulders. “You can’t be a killer if you faint at the sight of blood,” he said, leading her to his chair.

“Ah, Cally girl, you know how you are,” moaned the prisoner. “She can’t even kill a chicken, Sheriff. She couldn’t have meant to hurt you.”

“Pa!” Cally wailed, burying her face in her hands.

Andrew planted himself between the trembling girl and the drawer full of weapons, being careful his own holstered gun was beyond her reach. The girl’s dog was putting up such a commotion he was a little concerned it would come through the door. He pulled his handkerchief out of his pocket and wrapped it around
his arm. “Damn,” he muttered. “I should have known she’d eventually think of hiding two knives.”

At the sound of his voice, she raised her head, her green eyes bright with hatred. The freckles across her nose stood out in stark relief against the too-pale skin. “I have to help Pa,” she whispered.

“I know.” The acknowledgment surprised even him. He couldn’t get soft with this little hellion. He tried to keep his voice stern, but the girl was already about to cry. It tempered his tone more than he expected. “Please try to understand. There’s nothing you can do. I could arrest you, too, for attempted—”

The sound of sobbing cut him off, this time from the cell. Emerald eyes shot daggers at him as Cally came to her feet and hurried to the bars. “Don’t cry, Pa,” she soothed.

Andrew retrieved the knife from the floor and tossed it in the drawer with the others. “You better go home, Miss DuBois.” His prisoner was huddled on his bunk, shaking and sobbing. The waif that came to see him every day clung to the bars.

“Miss DuBois.” She ignored his gentle touch on her shoulder. “You better go home. It’ll be dark soon.” He tugged her lightly. Her grip on the bars tightened. “Do you really want a test of strength, Miss DuBois?” He had intended for it to sound threatening, but it came out more a plea.

Cally turned and spit, hitting him squarely in the face, then marched out of his office, holding her head high. Royal growled at Haywood as she gave the office door an extra tug to be sure it slammed. She heard an answering thud and knew one of Sheriff Haywood’s precious pictures had hit the floor.

“Good,” she muttered as she stomped down the street. What kind of bloodthirsty killer framed the pictures of men he had killed and hung them where he could look at them all day? At least that was what she guessed they were. She hadn’t asked him about the four Wanted posters that decorated the office wall. She didn’t talk to him any more than she had to!

Royal ran beside her, head turned to watch her face, as she stormed down the street. The poor dog nearly fell over himself trying to keep up and watch her at the same time.

“Maybe he likes looking at ugly pictures of ugly men,” she suggested to Royal and Jewel as she untied the reins. Swinging onto her mule’s back, she realized she had let her anger at the sheriff get the better of her. Desperation settled heavily on her, and she hung her head. How was she going to get Pa out of jail? Sheriff Haywood ruined every plan. She couldn’t let her own father hang! She was running out of ideas, and Pa was running out of time.

Andrew wiped his face with the back of his hand as he watched the baggy clothes and hat flounce out of his office. He never saw that coming! Twice now, she had actually spit in his face! Why did his guard seem to slip a little when he was around Cally DuBois?

He cringed when the door slammed and the picture of Wade Terris hit the floor. He stood still for a moment, getting his temper under control before he retrieved the picture.

The joints of the frame had been loosened by the fall. He slipped the poster out, grateful at least that
he hadn’t put glass in front of the pictures. He would be cussing little Cally DuBois for sure if he was forced to clean splintered glass off his floor.

He set the frame and poster on his desk and studied his prisoner. The sobbing had stopped with the slamming of the door. DuBois huddled on the bunk, asleep perhaps, but still shaking slightly. Trying to fix the frame would disturb the old man. He would leave it until later.

The cut on his arm stung like the devil. He probed it to be sure it wasn’t bleeding and sat down at his desk with a sigh. He would have liked a doctor to stitch it closed, but he couldn’t leave his prisoner unattended, not with his crazy daughter on the loose.

One of his deputies had quit and the other’s wife was down with the flu. That meant he was here for the night, and the little cut didn’t qualify as an emergency. It could wait until one of the volunteers checked with him in the morning.

He settled back in the chair. It still seemed like a foolish arrangement. Why couldn’t Bill have found volunteers to look after his wife while he did his job? Granted, the couple had only been married a few months, and if Bill had come to work, he would probably have spent all his time worrying about his wife. Andrew wasn’t entirely sure Bill wouldn’t have given in to the temptation to leave his post to check on her.

To Andrew, the situation reinforced a long-held belief that lawmen shouldn’t be married. It ruined their edge. And furthermore, he believed that most people, especially voters, agreed with him. They liked to know that nothing was more important than the job.

However, that hadn’t discouraged Bill. Andrew had
never seriously considered firing him for getting married either, though the thought was appealing at the moment.

Andrew smiled to himself. Bill’s job was secure, at least for now. He was having enough trouble finding a replacement for one deputy. So far, no one he had interviewed had come close to being qualified. Bill had suggested he was too particular, but he hated to settle for mediocrity.

Andrew turned down the flame in the lamp and closed his eyes, determined to rest while he could. Settling back in his chair, he slept, but not for long. The vision of a butcher knife flying in his direction brought him instantly awake.

He shook the sleep from his head, got up and locked the door. The office was nearly dark now, and he lit the gaslight on the wall by the door, keeping the flame low.

DuBois sat up, rubbing his face as if he were trying to get feeling back into it. Andrew hadn’t meant to disturb DuBois, but since the old man was awake anyway, he decided to take a look at the damaged picture frame. He kept a hammer and other basic tools in his office. Turning up the wick in the lamp on his desk, he studied the joints of the frame.

BOOK: Cassandra Austin
5.21Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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