This week for Excerpt Tuesday—Susan Page Davis is here sharing an excerpt from her newest release, The Outlaw Takes a Bride.
Book: The Outlaw Takes a Bride
Author: Susan Page Davis
Johnny Paynter flees Denver to escape being hanged for a murder he didn’t commit. At his brother Mark’s ranch in Texas, where he thought he could take refuge, he finds his brother dead. Johnny strongly resembles his brother, and the people in town think he is Mark. Reluctantly at first, Johnny assumes Mark’s identity. But what will he do when he learns Mark has been corresponding with a widow in St. Louis? Sally Golding is en route to be a mail-order bride to Mark. Johnny must decide whether or not to go through with the wedding, posing as his brother. Sally isn’t sure their marriage can survive—and then the outlaws who killed Mark return.
Book excerpt (from chapter 1):
Johnny and Cam rode together down the dusty lane, looking for Mark’s ranch. The road hadn’t been used much, and they hadn’t met anyone else since leaving the last town behind.
“It can’t be much farther.” Johnny rose in his stirrups and peered ahead.
“You don’t think we took the wrong trail?” Cam asked.
“Not a chance. That big rock was the landmark. He said turn right at the rock that looks like a bread loaf.”
Weeks on the trail and scanty food had worn Johnny down. He leaned over to one side and tried to watch his horse’s feet, but he couldn’t see much from the saddle. “I think Reckless is limping.”
“Wouldn’t surprise me. He lost that shoe a good five miles back.” Cam gazed at the chestnut’s hooves as they ambled along. “Well, we’ll be there any time now.”
The sun beat down with no compassion, and the horses’ heads drooped low. Johnny opened his canteen and took a swig. If they didn’t find water for the horses soon, they’d be in trouble. He ran his hand over his beard, wiping away a few stray drops of water. At the line shack, he hadn’t had a razor. He and Cam hadn’t shaved since they lit out. It would feel good to get cleaned up again.
“Hey, look.” Cam pointed, and Johnny sighted in the direction he indicated.
Over the top of a small rise ahead was something that might be a ridgepole. They urged the horses to a trot, but at once Reckless’s limp became more pronounced, and Johnny let him fall back to a walk.
Cam rode on ahead to the top of the knoll and turned and waved his hat. “Come on, boy! We’re there!”
Reckless had a hard time navigating the hill, and Johnny swung down and led him the last few yards. They were at the edge of a yard flanked by a small cabin on one side and a large corral on the other. Beyond the corral stood a barn of sorts. Apparently its main use was for hay storage, though one part seemed to be walled in, probably so Mark could secure his saddles and tools.
“Funny,” Johnny said. “The corral gate is open.”
Cam frowned. “I don’t see any horses.”
Johnny looked closer at the house. No smoke rose from the chimney, but a man might let the fire go out in this heat. “Think there’s anyone here?”
A cow bawled pitifully, and Johnny spotted her in a small pen near the barn. He led Reckless down the hill toward her, looking about as he walked. He spotted a few head of cattle grazing several hundred yards away on the fenced range.
Cam rode ahead. At the corral fence, he dismounted and eyed the cow.
“She looks like she needs to be milked.”
Johnny walked over and stood beside him. One glance confirmed Cam’s assessment—the cow was uncomfortable, all right.
“Something’s not right.”
“I saw some cattle off over there.” Cam jerked his chin toward the grassy range.
“Yeah, I saw them, too. Come on.” Johnny left Reckless ground-tied and walked toward the house. He was bone tired, and he didn’t want to sleep on the ground again tonight.
The cabin door was shut, and he knocked on it. “Mark?” Silence greeted him, so he knocked again. “Anybody home?”
Cam sidled up to him and reached for the latch. The door opened under his touch. “H’lo, the house!”
They looked at each other.
Cam hopped over the threshold, and Johnny hesitated only a moment before following him.
Lying facedown on the floor of the one-room cabin was a man dressed in twill pants and a frayed chambray shirt. Johnny’s stomach flipped.
“Well, you said it,” Cam said. “Somethin’ ain’t right.”
Johnny stooped and grasped the man’s shoulder and rolled him over. Staring sightless up at the ceiling was his brother, Mark Paynter.
Susan Page Davis is the author of more than fifty published novels and novellas. Her historical novels have won numerous awards, including the Carol Award, the Will Rogers Medallion for Western Fiction, and the Inspirational Readers’ Choice Contest. She has also been a finalist in the More than Magic Contest and Willa Literary Awards. Susan lives in western Kentucky with her husband and two youngest children. She’s the mother of six and grandmother of nine. Visit her website at: www.susanpagedavis.com
Susan’s website: www.susanpagedavis.com
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Susan blogs on the 23rd of each month at Heroes, Heroines, and History: www.hhhistory.com