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The Lady and the Lawman

Confront and overcome is Amanda Jefferson's creed. Determined to catch the gunrunners who murdered her father she will do whatever it takes, even operate from a house of ill repute, in a tiny Texas town. More disturbing than her lodgings is the house's owner, who turns out to be the undercover Texas Ranger assigned to help in the investigation. Amanda finds his bold, hungry kisses the most dangerous obstacle of all.

A Hard Shell Word Factory Release

Betty Winslow

     I am a western history lover with a fascination for the gun-toting lawmen of the old west and the courageous women who loved them. I live in Missouri with my husband and four daughters and have been writing for twelve years. The Oregon and Santa Fe trails are my neighbors and a never-ending source of inspiration. The Lady and The Lawman is the first of several rousing tales of pioneer life on the American frontier. Nobody's Angel set in Abilene Kansas and Trail Dust, a widow's journey on the Santa Fe Trail are works in progress. The Lady and The Lawman was a fun book to write and I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did creating it.

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Chapter One

Texas, 1859

AMANDA JEFFERSON clutched the leather strap beside the open window of the swaying stagecoach in an attempt to keep her slight frame on the hard seat, and out of the lap of the bespectacled, balding man seated across from her. Each time she swayed in his direction, she noted the light of anticipation that flared in his eyes. He reminded her of a cat waiting to pounce on a canary.

She thought of the Derringer tucked into the reticule dangling from her wrist. She probably wouldn't have time to retrieve it if the man became aggressive, but she could darn well smack him in the head with the heavy bag. The gun's weighty presence was a great comfort.

The men of the West she'd encountered during this trip had been, for the most part, a rough-looking ungentlemanly lot. Perhaps it was the lack of single ladies on the frontier that made them so.

The man on the opposite seat had introduced himself as Samuel Griffin. The way he looked at her made her feel uncomfortable in the extreme. Not that she was much to look at, at the moment, she thought wryly.

She'd seen her reflection in a badly clouded mirror at the last rest stop and, to put it bluntly, she looked a sight. Her dove gray traveling dress was wrinkled and dust-covered, the feather on the small matching hat perched atop her coiled auburn hair had long ago drooped, and her black, high-buttoned shoes were scuffed and dirty.

She hadn't had a decent meal, or a full bath, or slept in a really clean bed in the four days and three nights since beginning the last leg of this horrid journey. Her head ached from breathing the dust stirred up by the coach, and her stomach churned from all the bouncing. She thanked God that the end was nearly in sight.

Another jolt bounced her off the seat and plopped her down again. She felt an urgent need to rub her smarting backside. One look at the leering man across the coach stifled that impulse.

* * *

IN TRUTH, she did understand the necessity for speed. At the last rest stop the station man had informed the driver that a band of Comanche were roaming the area.

Their driver, who said his name was Shorty, told them this stage might well be the last to get through until the Texas Rangers could round up the Indians. His last bit of advice after fresh horses had been hitched to the stage was "Hold on to your hats folks, "cause I'm gonna whip up the horses."

The next jolt bounced Amanda up so high that her head hit the ceiling, causing her hat to slid forward over her eyes.

Griffin snickered.

Amanda righted her hat. Shorty, she decided, was a man who knew what he was talking about.

Leaning back, she closed her eyes against the penetrating stare of the man seated across from her and tried to ignore her discomfort.

She would not allow anything to distract her from the job ahead. Robert Commings, her father's business partner in the private investigation firm of Jefferson and Commings hadn't been able to talk her out of making the trip, though God knew he'd tried.

Robert didn't think she was qualified to handle the investigation into Cecil Jefferson's murder and he was probably right. Although she had worked on cases with her father on a few occasions, she had never worked undercover alone before. But, although she might not have been the most logical choice, she certainly was the most determined, and the least likely to be detected.

Admittedly, she was terrified. But, she had vowed to avenge her father's murder and finish the investigation of The Knights of the Golden Circle—an organization of southern sympathizers—that Mister Lincoln had hired him for. It was imperative that the North prevent the Knights from supplying the South with arms, and come hell or high water, she would do her part in this effort.

Someone had betrayed her father the night the shipment of gun was stolen from the Armory in Washington, D.C. Papers she'd found in her father's desk indicated the guns would change hands in the small Texas town of Three Wells. Her father had planned to make this trip. Now she would do it for him.

Still, if the fates hadn't intervened she probably wouldn't have gotten Robert to agree. The letter informing Amanda of her mother's death and of the inheritance awaiting her in Three Wells had come a week after her father's funeral. She now had a legitimate reason to be in Three Wells and the cover she needed to begin her investigation.

Amanda didn't care a fig about the inheritance or the mother who'd placed her in a convent school at the age of five. She barely remembered the woman or the house she'd lived in, except for a child's impression that it was big and the woman was beautiful.