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Will Brody and Laura get a second chance for happiness?

          “Brody.  Brody is that you?”
          Slowly he turned.
          Laura stood before him like a vision from the past that he wasn’t sure was real or imagined. All the pain and confusion from ten years ago rushed through him, filling his head with so much chatter he couldn’t hear a word.
          Brody rocked back and forth from his heels to his toes. This little ruse of his had been a stupid idea from the get-go.
          He should leave Laura to deal with Hawkes.
          But he couldn’t.
          Hawkes destroyed everything in his path. He couldn’t let the man destroy Laura. He had to get her out of there.
          His head demanded he leave.
          His heart propelled him to her side.
          “Tell me straight.  Why’d you come back here?” He clenched his fists at his sides to keep from reaching out, from taking her in his arms.”
          “It’s not what you think, Brody.”
           Again, that look he remembered well, as if she was peeling back his skin and looking straight inside him. His heart beat faster. His chest felt tight. Once upon a time he thought he knew her. Now he had no idea if he ever had. His gut clenched. He wouldn’t be making that mistake again.
          “You have no idea what I think.”

Don’t miss this heart-warming new Western Historical Series, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.  Get book 1 HERE.



Chapter One

         What a picture-perfect day for a wedding! Amanda was so excited she could barely keep still next to her best friend, Laura, who was exchanging vows with Brody Mason. Laura looked truly radiant in a lace gown inlaid with hundreds of pearls, her eyes aglow with happiness and love behind her veil.
         A beacon of happiness Amanda saw mirrored on the groom’s face.
         As she shifted her gaze from Brody to his six brothers, her eyes lingered on Bradley, third from the end.
         The preacher’s voice interrupted her perusal. “I now pronounce you man and wife. You may kiss the bride.”
         Laura turned and passed her the bouquet just before Brody gathered his bride close for the wedding kiss. Amanda sighed at the sheer romanticism of the day. As she sighed, her mind skipped back to that secret and joyful place. A magical evening here at the Copper Moon Ranch, and the dances she had shared with Bradley.
         In typical male fashion, he had avoided her ever since.
         Amanda watched the gracious way Laura flitted from guest to guest, thanking them for coming. A keg of beer had been tapped and its consumption among the gents added to the buzz of merriment floating through the air. A four-piece group of musicians began warming up on the make-shift stage and dance floor to the left of the barn.
         Amanda circled the group of guests, wondering why she felt so lonely in the midst of a party. An only child, her life had always felt pretty solitary with only her and Ma. Living in a small town in the shadow of Yuma, Arizona. Amanda told herself she preferred the small-town life. But how could she be sure when that’s all she knew? She felt restless. Ready for some sort of change. Harking back to the first day she met Laura.
         On the far side of the dance floor she spotted Bradley, standing alone, his face in shadow. Perhaps he felt as lonely as she did, part of the reverie but never really belonging. One more thing they had in common.
         She was gathering her courage to approach him, suggest they share a dance like they had once before, when there was a loud clang of spoons against glassware, a signal for the newlywed couple to exchange a kiss, which was followed by whistles and catcalls.
         As she looked around the happy gathering, she nearly missed seeing the back side of Bradley as he made his way toward the barn. Before she had a chance to talk herself out of it, she set down her glass and followed him.
         She wasn’t overly surprised by Bradley’s destination. Somehow, she instinctively knew he preferred the company of animals over humans. As Bullet was too small to have a fulltime vet, Bradley was frequently called by the nearby ranchers should they have an animal in distress.
         The barn’s interior was dim, its only illumination from the lanterns outside, the air peppered with the smell of hay and warm animal flesh. As she walked past the shadowy stalls and heard the occasional snuffle or stirring of sleeping animals, her feet made no noise against the straw-strewn floor.
         She heard Bradley before she saw him. Caught the low murmur of his voice as he soothed an agitated mare in a nearby stall. She saw him crouch down and run a large, capable hand up the mare’s front leg, as he spoke in soothing tones. Amanda stood still as stone, envying the bond between man and beast. The moment was both intimate and poignant.
         Suddenly, feeling as if she was intruding, she spun to leave but the hem of her gown caught on a nearby pitchfork and sent it clattering to the ground. Bradley bolted upright. Their gaze met.
         “What are you doing here?”
         Amanda opened and closed her mouth several times but couldn’t seem to find any words.
         She cleared her throat and tried again.  “Maybe I was looking for you.” She shocked herself with the boldness of her tone, along with the way she sashayed toward him as if she’d been doing it her entire life, taking her cue from the professional ladies she’d seen in town.
         “Maybe I was remembering how well we moved together on the dance floor the night Laura was rescued. Wondering what else we might do well together.”
         Merciful heavens! Was that her speaking? She sounded like a total hussy. His eyes on her were dark, unfathomable, giving away nothing. Was he intrigued? Or repelled by her forwardness?
         “I’m going to do us both a favor and forget what you just said.”
         When he made to brush past her, almost as if she didn’t exist, Amanda couldn’t help herself. “Bradley, I—” She reached for him, caught the sleeve of his formal linen shirt.
         One word.
         Before she had a chance to reply, their exchange was interrupted by a ruckus outside. She started at the sound of shots being fired. They both dashed toward the door of the barn as more shots rang out.