Laurie Kingery writes


 

The Sheriff's Sweatheart

 

The Sheriff's SweetheartTHE SHERIFF'S SWEETHEART
April 2011
Love Inspired Historicals
The "Brides of Simpson Creek" series

He needs to turn his life around...
And Simpson Creek, Texas, is the perfect place to do it. On the run from his dangerous past, Sam Bishop is happy to find a town seeking "marriage-minded bachelors." A wealthy wife is just what he needs to make his gambling problems disappear. But when Prissy Gilmore catches Sam's eye, she proves to be much more than a rich match. Sam wants to deserve her, wants to become sheriff and protect her hometown--wants to be the man she believes him to be. Yet the true test is waiting, when his past returns to challenge his future.
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EXCERPT

As he approached the jail, three people emerged from it--a well-dressed old man leaning on a silver-headed cane, a man about Sam's age who must be the sheriff, for his vest bore a silver star, and a young lady. Her face was hidden by the side of her fetching sky-blue bonnet, but strawberry-blond curls peeped from beneath it.

"Yes, I'm expecting the man today, Mayor," he heard the sheriff say to the older man.

Just then the dog erupted into a volley of barks from his saddle perch.

Sam tried to hush the beast, but it was already too late.

"Oh, what a darling dog!" the girl cried, and rushed forward. "What's his name?"

Sam still hadn't managed to come up with a name for his four-legged companion.

"I…I don't know, ma'am," he murmured idiotically, but he couldn't have made a more intelligent reply to save his life, for he was transfixed by the face looking up at him, framed by the bonnet. She had eyes the exact same sky-blue hue as the bonnet, sweeping, gold-flecked lashes, and a sweetly curved mouth, all in a heart-shaped face.

She blinked in confusion and a faint color swept into her cheeks. "You don't know? Whyever not? Ooooh, how sweet!" she cried, when the dog raised his paw and wagged his tail at her.

Out of the corner of his eye, Sam saw the lawman's face harden and his gaze narrow. He knew the man had caught sight of his lacerated cheek.

Wonderful. He was already under suspicion.

He touched the brim of his hat respectfully. "Well, not exactly, ma'am. He just adopted me, a ways down the road. I reckoned I might find him a home here," he said, aiming a brilliant smile at the girl. He saw her spot the healing cut on his cheek, but he could still salvage the situation, he thought, with the dog's distracting help. "My name's Sam Bishop."

"I'm Prissy—um, Priscilla Gilmore," the girl said, blushing a little more as she corrected herself.

Thunderation. He'd thought the good Lord had given up on him a long time ago, but surely this was a sign. He'd blundered right into the very lady he'd been looking for, and she was a far cry from grandmotherly. But did she have to be flanked by a lawman who was already looking narrow-eyed at him?

"Miss Gilmore, I'm right pleased to meet you," he said.

"This is my father," she went on, nodding at the old man on one side of her, "Mayor James Gilmore."

"Sir," he said, fingering the brim of his hat once more. Miss Priscilla was the daughter of the mayor? This just kept getting better and better.

"And this is Nicholas Brookfield, the acting sheriff."

"Sheriff Brookfield," Sam said, nodding at the man who was staring at him with that cold gaze that must come to lawmen as soon as they pinned on those tin stars. But what had she meant, "acting sheriff?" The man had an air of command about him that sat as naturally as his clothing.

"May I hold him?" Miss Priscilla inquired, reaching up for the dog, who wagged his tail again and positively wriggled with eagerness. Sam thanked his lucky stars he'd had enough sense to let that dog tag along with him. He handed down the dog into the girl's gloved hands and managed to conceal the grimace the movement caused.

"What's your business here, Mr. Bishop?" the sheriff inquired, surprising Sam with an English accent rather than the Texas twang he'd had been expecting.

But he was spared the necessity of a reply as the dog jumped up in Miss Priscilla's arms to lick her face enthusiastically.

"He likes me!" Priscilla said, and giggled—a sound which Sam Bishop felt down to his very toes.

"He surely does," Sam said with a smile, though he knew Brookfield was waiting for an answer. "I—"

"Say, you wouldn't be the man Nick was expecting, would you? The applicant for the sheriff's job we advertised for?" asked Priscilla's father.

"No, his name was something else," Brookfield said, his gaze no less distrustful than before.

Sam had to think fast. He'd have to have a reason for staying in town while he became acquainted with the enchanting creature who was now holding the dog, especially with the acting sheriff looking at him as if he suspected Sam were here to rob the bank.

"I may not be the man you're expecting," Sam said quickly. "But I did come about the job. I'd be proud to be Simpson Creek's sheriff."

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