It will take a strong man to tame her…
Accustomed to running wild and free, Winter Maynard finds herself in a mountain town in Colorado, hiding out, while her outlaw brother ties up loose ends. Upon meeting the town’s preacher, who kindly offers her water, she’s drawn to the man, who she senses isn’t who he claims to be. No man of the cloth could look that handsome in a frock coat.
Turning over a new leaf, Pastor Creed Douglas vows to atone for the sins of the past–until the moment Winter Maynard sets foot in town. The winsome blonde, dressed as a man and filthy from the road, intrigues him. Smitten, Creed struggles with his desires, torn between love and duty. It will take a strong man to tame a woman like Winter, and he knows he’s more than capable, but she’s determined to resist him, running straight into disaster.
Here is a short preview of The Preacher: Bachelors of the Prairie
I had known lust before, having succumbed to it often enough, and having fought the temptation over the years. Once I left prison, I knew I would go west to start again, leaving behind family and a sense of disappointment in life. I had paid for my crime—dearly—losing everything. Turning over a new leaf, I vowed to devote myself to helping others, trying to atone for what I did. In that respect, lust was a distraction I could not afford.
That’s all I feel for that woman …
Yes, of course it is … she’s a stranger … she has her own secrets …
It had been too long since I’d had a woman, but … I needed to hold myself to a higher standard. I had to set an example for all the folks of Animas City, all the people who looked up to me for guidance and support. My needs came second, but … pushing aside the feelings from last night proved difficult, my mind drifting … remembering the way Winter had felt in my arms.
“Pastor Douglas?” Clara Richards stared at me, her eyes soft and inquisitive. “Have you been listening to me?”
“Yes, I have, my dear. I’m sorry.” I smiled regretfully. “Please go on.” She had just had a baby, the infant asleep in the basket at our feet. We sat towards the front of the church on a pew. “You were speaking about Tom.”
“Yes, my husband.” Her expression fell. “He’s gone again. I know his business takes him away, but I find myself up most of the night with the baby. I’m dreadfully tired all the time. I miss my family.” Tears filled her eyes. “My mother writes faithfully, begging me to come home. I don’t know why I married a railway man. If the train were here, I’d be taking it back to Virginia quite often.”
I nodded, trying my best to concentrate on what she said.
“I yearn for city life. He promised that we would live in Denver, but now he’s far too busy with the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad’s San Juan extension. That’s all he speaks about. You know, they’re hoping it comes through Animas.”
“We all must bear the burden of life, I’m afraid.”
“But when we married, he promised to be with me!” She’d raised her voice, several people glancing our way. Then she whispered, “He should be home with us.”
“Yet he must earn a living to support you and baby. If given a choice, I’m sure he’d rather be with you. This business won’t go on forever. Once he’s finished, he shall return to you.”
“I know that, but I don’t like it one bit. I want my husband! Why is the Lord punishing me like this?”
I flipped through the Bible, finding a bookmark. “So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure many trials for a little while.” I summarized the reading of 1 Peter 1:6.
She stared at me, her lower lip protruding. “I do feel this has been a trial. I’m just so tired, Pastor.”
“Your faith in the Lord shall give you the strength to endure. I know it will. As always, you must pray on the matter, Mrs. Richards. An answer will come to you. I suggest you speak to some of the other mothers in town. They can offer you advice to help the little one sleep better.”
“But then I’ll feel like a failure.” Tears formed in her eyes. “I thought motherhood would be a blessing in my life; instead, I’m thoroughly exhausted all the time. I cry all day long.”
“That’s quite common with new mothers. You’re not a failure, Mrs. Richards.” I glanced at the sleeping infant, finding her face lovely. “You’ve a beautiful daughter. She’s healthy and happy. You’ve a husband who cares for you, seeing to your welfare.” I appraised her, finding her attractive. “You’re in the prime of health yourself. You really must count your blessings. You’ve many of them. This period of turmoil shall not last. Think of yourself as a traveler, passing through troubled water. You can still capture joy during times of tribulation.”
She mulled that over, her eyes lowering to the gloved hands in her lap. “Yes, Pastor. You’re right.”
“Speak to other mothers,” I encouraged. “I’ll have a word with Mrs. Boone. She’ll know more about this than I. She’s quite active in the community. If you share your burden, it’s not as terribly heavy.”
“I feel a little better now speaking to you. You always know what to say to make it better, Pastor. Thank you.”
“It’s my pleasure, Mrs. Richards.”
“I wanted to ask you something personal. I hope I won’t offend you.”
“You’re rather young yourself, young enough to have a wife and family. Is there a Mrs. Douglas in your future?”
“I’m far too busy tending to my congregation at the moment to concern myself with such things.” She eyed me askew, doubting that remark. “I won’t rule anything out. I’m not opposed to marrying. I should do so, in fact. It’s up to me to set a good example for the folks of Animas City.”
“The ladies seem to like you.”
This tickled my pride, which bothered me, making me uncomfortable. “I consider everyone among my friends.”
“I’ve embarrassed you. I’m sorry. Thank you for speaking to me, Pastor. It’s been helpful.”
“I’m glad.” I got to my feet. “Now, if you’ll excuse me.”
These were the moments that I felt I did some good in the world, although my contribution often felt miniscule. Heading toward my office, I passed several people who prayed. A cup of tea would be lovely, my mind returning to the events of last night.
Blasted! I have to get that out of my head. I can’t think of what happened … how … wonderful she felt in my arms …
I knew I’d left the door open, but I found it shut. That was odd. Stepping into the room, I faced a man in a wide-brimmed hat, who sat behind my desk, although, when he lifted his chin, he was a woman instead.
“Howdy, Pastor. We need to have a little talk.”
Having sat at Pastor Douglas’s desk for nearly an hour, I realized coming here had been a mistake. I should have taken the horse and left. The situation seemed impossible now, this feeling of desperation entirely familiar. Like a cornered wolf set upon by hunters, I had to secure my freedom—by any means necessary.
“Howdy, Pastor. We need to have a little talk.” I eyed him from the seat behind the desk, disturbed by how appealing I found him, his handsome face in the doorway. “Close the door.”
“Is this about last night?”
“Not especially. Close the door, would you?”
He did so, facing me, a curious expression on his face. “What is it, Winter?”
“I’m in a bit of a bind. You could call it … trouble. It has a way of finding me. My plans have changed. I’m leavin’ town just as soon as I’m done here.” Getting to my feet, I held a revolver, pointing it at him. “I sure am sorry about this, but,” I shrugged, “it can’t be helped. I’d normally never do this, especially not to a clergyman, but … I’m goin’ to hell anyhow, so … ”
“What sort of trouble are you in? I can help you.”
“Oh, you sure can. I’ll need whatever money you got. All of it.”
He frowned, sighing. “What’s happening? Please tell me what’s wrong.”
“It wouldn’t matter. The only thing you need to know is that … you’re a lovely man. I could see myself falling in love with a fella like you. I sure did like kissing you. I would’ve liked … doing other things with you too. You’re the only man I’ve ever felt that way about. As usual, I’m gonna ruin it, because that’s the story of my life.” The gun shook in my hand, a sudden case of regret weakening me. “I’ll be outta your hair soon enough, Pastor. I just need some money.”
“You’re with that train robbing gang, aren’t you?”
“It doesn’t really matter at this point. I’ve somewhere else I need to be.” Stepping out from behind the desk, I approached him, the gun firmly in my grip. “Now, please give me what I asked for. I’ve already wasted enough time waiting for you.”
His dark eyes drifted over my face, regret swimming in their depths. “We can work this out some other way, Winter. You needn’t continue to run. I can speak to the authorities on your behalf. We can clear up the matter in no time.”
I shook my head. “Nope. I’m guilty as sin. I’ll go to prison for what I’ve done. I’m not about to let that happen. All I need is some traveling money. I know you have it.”
“It’s not mine,” he said softly. “You’d be stealing from the members of my congregation.”
“Like I said, I’m goin’ to hell anyway.” Impatience made me want to hurry, the time ticking away, lessening my chance of escape. “Money now, please.”
His mouth formed a grim line. “I forgive you, Winter.” He moved to the desk, retrieving a key from a pocket to unlock a drawer.
“I forgive you for robbing me.”
“I didn’t ask for your forgiveness. I don’t care a continental about it.”
“One day you might.”
“I doubt I’ll live long enough for it to matter much.”
He didn’t like that, anger distorting his face. “We all do things we shouldn’t. Everyone has regrets.” From a leather bag, he withdrew a stack of bills. “I’ll give this to you, but I wish you’d reconsider.”
“I won’t.” I watched him warily, concerned he might have a weapon of his own. I suspected he knew how to use one. The money came my way, but instead of leaving it on the desk, he grasped my wrist instead, flicking the revolver out of my grasp.
In the space of an instant, he had disarmed me. “Tarnation!” I shouted. He pulled me to him, a steely arm around my back. He was far stronger than he looked. Startled, I met his gaze, my heart pounding in my chest. “Blasted, I should’ve just shot you.”
“I can help you.”
“No, you can’t. This isn’t your concern anyhow. You’ve your flock to tend. You’ve the Lord’s business to conduct. You’re not really a preacher, though, are you?”
“I am now.”
“You’ve your own secrets.”
“What will you do?” Although he’d disarmed and captured me, I still had a knife in my boot.
“I’ll beg you to reconsider.”
It would be just a matter of time before the detective came pounding on the door. My horse waited at the livery, while the chance of freedom had all but slipped through my hands. I could have kicked him or stabbed him to secure my release, but instead, I grasped his face, feeling the rough quality of the skin there.
I kissed him, not being able to hide the way I felt. He held me even tighter, his mouth slanting over mine, hungry and eager. Our tongues met in an instant, the passion suddenly out of control. He tasted like sweet bread and honey, a heady combination, making me want so much more. His lips grazed my cheek, his ragged breath in my ear.
“Winter … ”
A moment of clarity had me reaching for the gun and the bundle of money, holding both in my hands. “Thank you kindly, Pastor.” I nodded briskly, the hat having fallen askew from the kiss. “That sure was a nice sendoff, but I really must be goin’ now.” The revolver slid into the holster at my thigh, the money disappearing into the pocket of the frock coat. “You take care now, you hear?”
The look of regret and disappointment on his face was almost too much to bear. Turning on my heel, I needed to distance myself from the man, both relieved and saddened I would never see him again. Perhaps if things had been different, if we had met under better circumstances, we might not have to say goodbye, but … my brother needed me. He was all the family I had left in the world.