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Authors: Doreen Owens Malek

Tags: #Romance, #Contemporary

The Harder They Fall

BOOK: The Harder They Fall
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THE HARDER THEY FALL

Doreen Owens Malek


Published by
 

Gypsy Autumn Publications
 

P.O. Box 383 • Yardley, PA 19067
 


 

Copyright 1993 and 2012

By Doreen Owens Malek

www.doreenowensmalek.com

 

The author asserts the moral right to

be identified as the author of this work

 

All rights reserved. Except for use in any review, the reproduction or utilization of this work in whole or in part in any form by any electronic, mechanical or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including xerography, photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, is forbidden without the permission of the publisher.

 

First printing April 1993

 

All the characters in this book have no existence outside the imagination of the author and have no relation whatsoever to anyone bearing the same name or names. They are not even distantly inspired by any individual known or unknown to the author, and all incidents are pure invention.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Epilogue

About the Author

New Doreen Owens Malek Releases

 

“The only reason I slept with your brother was because of you,” Helene said softly.

“What do you mean?” Chris murmured.

“I loved Martin, I know I did. But there are all types of love, and I was worried that the gratitude I felt for him was misleading me. I thought if I slept with him it would clear up the confusion.”

Chris seemed to be holding his breath. “Did it?”

Helene closed her eyes. “It... didn’t help. Martin was very sweet, but it wasn’t...”

“Like it is with us,” he finished.

“Yes,” she said in a small voice.

Chris reached her side in two strides and swept her greedily into his arms.

“Wait,” she pleaded. “We have to think–”

“No,” he muttered, kissing the side of her neck. “There’s been too much damn thinking going on around here.” His lips traveled up to her cheek and found her mouth. Helene responded hungrily, giving up, losing herself…

 

Chapter 1

 

“So tell me more about your brother,” Helene said, watching as Martin set her suitcase on the bed and then looked briskly around the room, surveying it.

“This guest room hasn’t changed at all since I was last here,” he observed. “Same rug and bedspread. I don’t think Chris goes in much for interior decoration.”

“Martin?” Helene prompted.

“Yes?” he said, glancing at her.

“Your brother. I’ve come all the way out here to Wyoming to meet him and what you’ve said about the man so far could be printed on a postage stamp.”

Martin grinned. “Well, he’ll be back from the branding at five, then you can see for yourself.”

Helene sighed. “You’re being evasive.”

“Lawyer’s habit, Miss Danforth,” Martin replied, leaning forward to kiss her on the forehead. “If you’re going to marry me and become Mrs. Murdock you’ll have to get used to it.”

“Be that as it may, I think I should have a little preparation before I meet him. Is he anything like you?”

Martin sat on the edge of the bed and smiled. “No.”

“Your father?”

Martin grinned. “Exactly like my father. Not in looks, but Chris has the same stubbornness and pride and iron will. When he first showed up here we didn’t have to guess whether he was really a member of the family, he had my dad’s personality to a T.”

“When did he come here?”

“When he was fifteen. His mother had just died, as I’ve already told you. He was running wild, a chip on his shoulder the size of Mount Everest and all alone in the world. He’d really been alone before that, I guess. His mother had always been more devoted to the bottle than to him. Anyway, he had quite a local reputation, just kid stuff really, fighting and raising hell and getting thrown out of schools.” He grinned. “He was going to make it clear that he didn’t need anybody, you know? Scared stiff, of course, but he would have been shot rather than show it.”

“I gather you won him over,” Helene said gently.

“Oh, it took a while. He had no experience of... kindness. He needed some time to get used to it. I remember once when he’d been arrested for mouthing off to some cop and they were holding him down at the station. It was nothing serious, but his attitude was not helping him get released. A smart-aleck kid—you can appreciate how the cops loved him.”

Helene nodded.

“I came to the police station to bail him out and you should have seen the look on his face when he spotted me. It was just after he had come to live with us and it was obvious to me that he hadn’t expected anybody to help him. After all, no one ever had. I was fresh out of law school and didn’t really know what I was doing anyway, but just my showing up made a great impression on him. He was different after that—he would listen to me instead of flying off the handle the moment I tried to talk to him.”

“And your father?”

“Oh, Dad took to him right away. Chris was everything I wasn’t—bold and handsome, physically brave, close to fearless in fact. And once he calmed down and gave us a chance he was just like an animal who’d been mistreated but then found a loving home. All that anger turned into devotion.” Martin swallowed hard. “He just idolized my dad and my father felt he had to make up for lost time, so they became very close.”

“But weren’t you jealous?” Helene asked.

Martin laughed. “Oh, how could I be? He became my champion! You know that saying: ‘He’s not heavy, he’s my brother.’ That’s Chris. Even today he sees himself as my protector.”

“I thought the older brother was supposed to protect the younger one,” Helene said, chuckling.

“Tell him that. As far as he’s concerned, he’s Mr. Worldly Wise and I’m the chump who’ll give away his socks if he’s not watched.”

“Isn’t that a bit much? No one has felt your generosity more than I have, but even I know you’re not naive.”

“I can see that you’ll get along famously with Chris,” Martin said, rising. “I can’t wait for you to meet him. Now why don’t you shower and change, maybe have a rest, while I go out and find my brother. I want to surprise him, since he’s not expecting us until tomorrow morning. I won’t be gone long.”

Before Helene could reply he was through the door and she heard his footsteps fading down the hall. She wandered over to the skirted vanity table and sat down, studying her reflection in the glass.

She looked tired, and it was no surprise. So much had happened in the past few months that she sometimes wondered how she had been able to deal with it all.

First had come her father’s disgrace, through which she had met Martin. James Danforth had declared bankruptcy at the beginning of the year and Martin was the attorney handling the proceeding. During the auditor’s examination of her father’s complicated financial records, it emerged that he had been embezzling from his company for some time. Unable to endure the thought of his forthcoming exposure, he had killed himself in April. Helene’s mother, always sheltered and delicate, could not handle the scandal and humiliation and had withdrawn into a shadow world, leaving her other child, Helene’s ten year old sister, to fend for herself. The house and property were sold to make a court ordered restitution, leaving the family homeless and virtually destitute, a situation Helene could not hope to remedy by herself on her teacher’s salary. Things had looked very bleak.

Through it all, Martin, an old friend of James Danforth’s, had been a rock to cling to while dangerous waters swirled around the Danforth family. Martin had started his law firm with client recommendations from the senior Danforth, and even when Helene’s father had become a pariah Martin had not abandoned his old friend’s wife and children. He had been so helpful, in fact, that Helene found herself leaning on him, perhaps a lot more than she should have. He had been so kind and caring that she should not have been shocked when he asked her to marry him.

Helene rose and walked to the window, looking out across the expanse of the Murdock family ranch spread beneath her. At first she had refused Martin’s proposal, unsure of her own feelings. She respected and admired him, and she cared deeply for him, but she was confused and afraid that she would be doing him a disservice if she accepted him. But Martin had persisted, offering to take care of her family anyway, even if she didn’t marry him. When Helene protested that she couldn’t allow him to do that, he had said that he was repaying a debt to her father and had ignored her objections. His relentless kindness, his gentleness with her devastated mother and bewildered sister had worn down her resistance. Over Helene’s objections he had established a trust for the surviving Danforths and installed them in a condominium owned by his firm. He had handled all the legal proceedings with a minimum of fuss for the family and generally had made himself indispensable. He was the most wonderful man she had ever known, and two weeks earlier Helene had finally agreed to marry him.

She sighed heavily. Was something missing? she wondered. She had never been in love, so she had no way of judging. She cared for Martin and she wanted to make him happy. Helene bit her lip as she watched a ranch hand cross the lawn beneath her, heading for the stables with a bridle in his hand. She would try very hard to be worthy of Martin.

She wandered into the adjoining bathroom and turned on the taps for a bath. The plane flight out from New Jersey to Wyoming had been rocky and she felt the need for a long, relaxing soak before she met Martin’s brother.

Chris ran the Homestead, the ranch both men had inherited from their father. Martin had explained some time ago that he had never had any interest in ranching, so after graduating from law school in New York he had remained in the East and made a career there. Helene had been startled then to learn that Christopher, the younger brother, was illegitimate. He had gone unacknowledged by his father for more than half his life, since the elder Murdock did not know he existed. Chris had not found out who his father was until his mother had died and her will revealed his parentage. Chris was fifteen by then, and thus had the difficult entrance into the family Martin had just described.

Helene had been fascinated to discover that solid, dependable Martin had such a skeleton in his family closet. Since the one occasion on which he had discussed his half brother he had refused to say anything more, always deflecting her questions lightly but firmly until today. It was clear that Martin wanted Chris to be judged entirely for himself.

Helene unbuttoned her blouse, bending to sample the temperature of the water. She admired Martin’s attempt to be fair, but she felt at a disadvantage. She had been ushered West to meet a complete stranger, one whose opinion was obviously important to Martin, and she had very little to prepare her for encountering her fiance’s only relative. She frowned as she discarded the rest of her clothes.

She was anxious to be liked, for Martin’s sake, but she wasn’t sure how to accomplish that. She could only be herself and hope for the best. She stepped into the tub and turned off the taps.

* * * *

Chris Murdock wiped his streaming face with a towel and lifted his discarded shirt from the railing at his left.

“That’s enough for today, Sam,” he said to the leather skinned ranch hand who was working at his side. “We’ll finish the rest of them tomorrow.”

Sam nodded and gestured for the remainder of the bawling calves to be herded back into the pen. Two other hands removed the steaming branding irons from the fire and put them on a rack to cool.

Chris glanced up at the setting sun, ruffling his damp hair with the towel.

BOOK: The Harder They Fall
10.26Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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