BRIDE OF A REBEL (PAGE COUNT: 339)
Abigail Hayden longs to travel to the Colorado Territory to visit her brother, Shane Hayden, who prides himself in being a rebel. Marissa Kohl, a pesky neighbor, is worse than a sharp stone in his boot. What might she do to ruin his chances with the lovely Annabelle Snow?
While Shane is convalescing, Marissa torments him. Avoiding her is impossible. He pities the man who will get stuck with her for life. She finds him handsome, but irritable and repulsive. Delight fills her when she gets opportunities to chide and taunt him.
Abigail recognizes Marissa’s sweetness. Why can’t her rebel brother see it? Shane seethes. How could his sister be taken in by firecat, his secret term for the girl?
Shane vows to remain a rebel. Gradually, his attitude mellows, but not his opinion of Marissa. When disaster befalls the Kohl family, he’s pressured to help. Unexpectedly, Marissa falls in love with him. Anguish grips her. What can she do? Will a rebel ever settle down? If he does, will he marry the rich and alluring Annabelle? Or is there a chance for Marissa to become his bride?
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BRIDE OF A REBEL (PAGE COUNT: 339)
Rebel Series Book 5
Colorado Territory, July 1867
The noon sun blazed on Shane Hayden as he guided his chestnut stallion through scrub oak on his newly acquired property. It would take ages to turn this farm into the going ranch he’d pretended it was. What if the lovely Miss Annabelle Snow rode out this way and discovered his claim of owning a prospering ranch was false?
He sighed. He’d told Annabelle lies!Guilt, warmer than the sun’s rays, waved over him. He savagely gripped the saddle horn. Being a maverick and a rebel is my chosen way of life! The muscles of his jaw tightened. “No matter what, I will remain a rebel!”
He’d been a cowboy on the Circle C Ranch since he’d arrived in the Colorado Territory fifteen months ago. This spring, Marvin Kohl had dazzled him with promises. Did I squander my savings on the down payment on an impossible dream?
He’d fallen for Marvin’s line and purchased the man’s farm. A laugh gurgled in Shane’s throat. “Then I saw it!” The deteriorating condition of the place made him wonder how he would make the payments on his loan. At twenty-one, I should’ve been more wise.
He halted Dillon on a slope in the foothills of the Rockies to gaze out across his purchase. The amount of labor it would take to make this into a going ranch boggled his mind.
The basic structure of the barn was sound, but some boards were missing from the sides. He was glad that it adequately sheltered the cow and his team of horses.
He needed to reinforce the corral fence enough to contain rambunctious mustangs. The henhouse needed whitewashed, and the roof leaked. The pigpen was solid, though, and the rail fence secure.
He chortled. “But I don’t have any pigs!” He scratched his beard. He’d needed it for warmth last winter and had neglected to shave it off. Now it was hot and itchy.
His gaze slithered over his house. Marvin had built the dwelling from stone he’d hauled in. The roof didn’t leak and no windows were broken. He snorted. When he’d opened the front door the first time and stepped into the main room, he’d been appalled. A layer of grime and grit covered the floor. Scum coated the table. When he’d swung the door inward, the air flow disturbed the blanket of fluff on the cookstove and sink board. Dust moats danced in rays of light that filtered through the streaked windows. The bedroom to his left resembled a pigsty! Repulsed, he’d backed out and slammed the door.
Maybe he could hire someone to clean up the crud that Marvin left in his wake. A grin toyed with his lips. What about the man’s niece? Marissa, his neighbor’s daughter, was nearly seventeen and a wild little spitfire.
She’s a perfect candidate for a scrubbing detail. Maybe a job would tame her down a bit and help her learn to control her actions as well as her tongue!
When he realized he was gripping the reins enough to turn his knuckles white, he relaxed his tense fingers. Just thinking about Marissa’s antics got him wound up tight enough to pop a blood vessel.
As he gazed across his property, he thought about the letter he’d written to his sister. He’d embellished the truth to her, too. But Abigail always worried about him. That was why he’d exaggerated the size and condition of his place. He chuckled. He figured his loving sister had read between the lines and knew exactly what his circumstances were.
A vision of Miss Annabelle Snow drifted into his restless mind, and his pulse rate increased. Removing his hat, he swiped moisture from his forehead.
Dismounting, he strode to a small stream and flopped to his belly to suck in a cooling drink. A stone splashed water in his face. Instantly on his feet, he seized his Colt. The nearby trees hid the assailant. A giggle floated toward him.
Marissa. His jaw clenched. That girl was causing him to grind his teeth during the day as well as in his sleep!
“It’s time I do something about it.” He leaped across the stream. A twig snapped. She vanished.
A section of green material caught his eye. “Marissa?”
A swish, and the fabric was gone, but that giggle had been unmistakable. “Come back here!” Shane’s irritation elevated a notch. This girl had been a pest too long. A nuisance from the beginning. She was worse than a sharp stone in his boot. A switch of long black hair caught his attention. He rushed toward the mop that the wind flipped from behind a tall bush.
When he was nearly close enough to seize a glossy handful, she glided away, dashed one way, then another and vanished in a stand of young ponderosa pine. Stalking an antelope didn’t give him this much trouble. Another giggle. He zeroed in on her location and dashed toward her.
Bending, she snatched a fist-sized rock and hurled it at him. Before he could duck, he heard, or felt, a dull thump against his temple, then nothing.
When Shane came to, the golden rays of the late afternoon sun shimmered across the landscape. Except for his hat mysteriously shading him, his face would have been burned. He blinked. Apparently, he’d been out for quite awhile. Knocking the hat aside, he sat up and gingerly felt the lump on his temple where Marissa’s rock had whacked him. His head ached, and his ribs hurt from laying on a pointed stone.
Struggling to his feet, he snatched his hat from the grass and staggered to his horse. Mounted, he headed back to the Circle C. Preparations for a cattle drive were in full swing, and Clark Colter needed all his cowboys in top performance. Shane snorted. He had Marissa to thank for his less than peak condition.
“One of these days, little firecat, if your father doesn’t take you in hand, I will!”