RIMROCK PHANTOM, Book 3 in Blaze Series

RIMROCK PHANTOM, Book 3 in Blaze Series


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Barbara Michel

Mike Johnson, dubbed Blaze by Tom, notices a shadowy form on a far cliff. One of the rustlers? Her curiosity mushrooms.

When Tom looks, the man is gone. He chides her about being fooled by a phantom. However, the shimmer in her sea-green eyes warns him that his darling Blaze could be lured into danger.

Intrigued, Mike slips into Rimrock Canyon to investigate. How are rustlers stealing Luke’s cattle? Why? And who’s behind the operation? She finds a corpse, then it vanishes. How? And why?

Tom warns her, but the desire to investigate draws her back to the canyon. Danny Douglas Colt joins her. They discover a secret entrance to a cave that leads them into trouble.

Love between Blaze and Tom deepens. What will she do when he leaves to build the bridge in Wyoming? Mike’s accompanying him would be improper, but remaining behind would break her heart.

Snooping invariably gets Mike into perilous situations. Lost in a treacherous cave, she’s terrified when the rustlers appear and plan to hang her. Her heart drums in her temples. Tom, having been injured, can’t track her. How can she escape?


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Barbara Michel


West of Denver, foothills of the Rockies

Double D Ranch, August 1891

Mike Johnson removed her cowboy hat and flipped her long red hair away from her neck. Blinking, she stared at the rocky face of the canyon in the distance. Had something moved? An animal?Squinting, she shielded her eyes and gasped. Is that a shadowy form of a man? “Tom, look.”

Thomas Running Free Whitewater pounded a nail into an upright support for his new lake-side cabin before he turned. “What is it, Blaze?”

She faced him. “There’s a man on the cliff at the end of the canyon. He’s about seventy-five feet up.”

Tom focused on the stony face of the distant cliff and shrugged. “I don’t see anyone.”

“He’s right . . .” She pointed, then dropped her arm. “He isn’t there now.”

Tom chuckled. “I thought you were going to help build my cabin.”

Her building experience measured minus zero. She figured she knew more about the moon than she did about carpentry. But Tom was the man she loved. She eyed his partly constructed frame and shrugged. “Okay. You want me to saw a board or hammer something?”

“No thanks.” He grinned. “I’m ready to place another wall joist. Bring me a two-by-six.”

Chewing her lower lip, she peered at the piles of lumber. “Which one’s a two-by-six?”

He pointed. As usual, she’d donned jeans that morning, then feeling sunny, she’d chose a yellow blouse. She headed for the pile, grabbed the end of the nearest board and dragged it toward him.

“Blaze, Dragging the lumber could damage the end. At best, it has dirt on it.”

“Oh.” She glanced at the board. “Sorry.”

Shaking his head made blue highlights dance in his black hair. He’d been wearing it in a fashionable style for over a month. Mike missed his eight-inch braid, but she supposed the shorter style was more suitable, especially since some people were prejudice over Tom’s father being Native American. He had his blond mother’s gorgeous light-blue eyes. The mix of his mother’s fair complexion with his Indian father’s, gave Tom’s skin the appearance of a terrific tan. Love for him swelled within her. She sighed.

He smiled as he positioned the board exactly where he wanted it. “Hold this until I nail it, please.”

“Okay.” She gripped the upright board, but her attention swung back to the cliff. A shadow moved. She gasped.

“Hey, you moved that board an inch!”

“An inch isn’t much.” She waved toward the rocky face and the board clattered into the foundation. “There’s that shadowy form again!”


She ignored the frustration evident in his tone. “I know I saw him. Now he’s gone!”

“Sweetheart, if there is a man on the ledge, what do you expect me to do about it?” Sighing, he reached over the frame for the board. “At this rate, I won’t get this cabin completed until the snow is six feet deep!”

She whirled to face him. “Don’t you care about protecting Uncle Luke’s cattle?”

“Of course.”

“You don’t act like it. Three more vanished last night. At least you could investigate that man who’s sneaking around the rocks.”

“I didn’t see a man. Maybe the sun is playing tricks.” He chuckled. “Or your imagination is running away with you again.” He held the two by six in place with one hand.

She tightened her lips. “You go on playing with your building. I’m going to find out who that is, what he’s doing, and why.”

Tom glared at her, a warning in his light blue eyes. “I don’t want you to leave this building site.”

She held her tongue, but determination exploded within her. Some way . . .

Alarm rose within Tom. Blaze’s sea-green eyes sweetly mocked him. She appeared vulnerable with her flaming-red hair flipping in the breeze, but her wearing jeans denoted her unwillingness to conform to society’s standards for women’s dress. She usually defied him, too, if she took a notion to investigate something. At seventeen, she was quite a vivacious young lady. Love for her swelled within him.

She shoved her hat back on her head. A grin curved her sweet mouth and deepened the dimples in her rosy cheeks. “What am I going to do about your ropes on me?” She giggled. “You’re getting to be more and more like Gran.”

Determination blossomed on her lovely face. As she focused on the rocks, a sparkle crept into her eyes. Her expression told him that she was certain that she’d seen something. Ropes or not, he’d have to keep an eye on her.

She kicked a stone. “I wonder if . . .”

“If what?”

“Oh, nothing.” She shrugged one delicate shoulder. “You want me to hold that board?”

“That might help.” Surely she wouldn’t take a notion to climb the cliff. Would she? If so, and there really was a man up there, he could shove her to her death. However, it was doubtful that she’d get that high before she slipped and slammed to the rocks below. His focus searched the rocky face. Nothing. Turning, he drove a nail to secure the joist.

Mike held the board, then retrieved another one for Tom. When he turned to measure another support, she picked up a stone and tossed it into the lake. She watched the circles spread outward from the spot. She counted the rings, but lost track. Counting Luke’s cattle seemed impossible, too, the way they continued to mill around. Already, rustlers had swiped thirty head. Why? The hundred and seventy left needed to be protected. Luke had to have at least a hundred and fifty head or his experiment with feeding them a new nutrient supplement would fail. Were they restless? Why? Were they aware of pending danger? What danger?

I intend to find out.

When Tom’s attention became glued to his project, Mike meandered into the canyon, glanced under a bush, and screamed.


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