Authors: Linda Howard
LOOK FOR THESE PULSE-POUNDING
NOVELS OF ROMANTIC SUSPENSE
FROM BESTSELLING AUTHOR
She's hunting for a mateâand there's
no more playing it safe.
Handsome, rich, sexy, deadly.â¦
â¦and don't miss
ALL THE QUEEN'S MEN
KILL AND TELL
NOW YOU SEE HER
SON OF THE MORNING
SHADES OF TWILIGHT
AFTER THE NIGHT
HEART OF FIRE
THE TOUCH OF FIRE
All available from Pocket Books
“A LADY OF THE WEST
ISâ¦ TEXTURED WITH GRITTY REALITY, RIVETING ACTION AND SIZZLING SENSUALITYâ¦. I COULDN'T PUT IT DOWN.”
PRAISE FOR THE SENSATIONAL NOVELS OF
NEW YORK TIMES
KILL AND TELL
“Linda Howard meshes hot sex, emotional impact, and gripping tension in this perfect example of what romantic suspense ought to be.”
“A perfect mystery for a late summer weekend. It's part romance with a dollop of suspense.”
-The Globe & Mail
“A frolicsome mysteryâ¦ Jaine Bright lives up to her name: she's as brightâand explosiveâas a firecracker.”
ALL THE QUEEN'S MEN
“A high-suspense romanceâ¦Howard's trademark darkly sensual style and intense, layered plot will delight her fans.”
NOW YOU SEE HER
“Steamy romance morphs into murder mysteryâ¦.”
“An eerie, passionate, and thrilling taleâ¦.”
Books by Linda Howard
A Lady of the West
The Touch of Fire
Heart of Fire
After the Night
Shadow of Twilight
Son of the Morning
Kill and Tell
Now You See Her
All the Queenâs Men
Published by POCKET BOOKS
This book is a work of historical fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents relating to non-historical figures are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance of such non-historical incidents, places or figures to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Publication of POCKET BOOKS
Pocket Star Book published by
Copyright Â© 1990 by Linda Howington
All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever. For information address Pocket Books, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
First Pocket Books printing September 1990
POCKET STAR BOOKS and colophon are registered trademarks of Simon & Schuster, Inc.
Front cover illustration by Jae Song
Manufactured in the United States of America
Dedicated to two wonderful friends,
Catherine Coulter and Iris Johansen,
for a lot of intangibles, such as support,
encouragement, laughter, and memories.
Thank God for Houston, Texas, February 1985.
A man in a passion rides a wild horse.
Beware the fury of a patient man.
he land itself was extraordinarily beautiful, which was perhaps why the earliest humans to settle on the continent chose to live there. Twenty-five thousand years later, give or take a century, it would be called New Mexico, a name that failed utterly to suggest the magic of the pristine alpine forests in the north that were dotted with cold, crystal clear lakes, and graduated to rolling grasslands and solitary mountain cones. The air was so clear it soothed both the eyes and the brain, and the sunset skies were always filled with color.
The first people to live in New Mexico were what the white man would later call Indians, and they flourished for thousands of years in the beautiful land. But when the Spaniards came with their armored warriors, steel lances, and fierce horses to unearth the gold buried in the rich land, they claimed the earth itself for their faraway king. As a reward to the intrepid settlers, the Spanish kings gave them land grants, pieces of paper that declared ownership of the wild land they attempted to tame.
One of these early Spanish settlers was Francisco
Peralta, a tall, quiet man with fierce green eyes. He marked out the boundaries of what he would call his, and defended it with his blood. He built an adobe house and sent to Spain for the gently born woman who had agreed to be his wife.
They had only one child, a son. But what a son he was! Juan Peralta extended the boundaries of his father's land, he mined gold and silver, raised horses and cattle, and so became wealthy. In his turn he took a bride from Spain, a woman who fought beside him during Indian raids and who bore him three children, a son and two daughters. For his family, Juan Peralta built a new house, far grander than his father's. His was a harmonious design with arched doorways, cool white walls, and dark earthen tile floors. Fragrant flowers bloomed in the courtyard.
Juan's son, named Francisco after his grandfather, worked even more wealth out of the
But his delicate wife died only six months after the birth of their first child, a daughter. The grieving husband never remarried and cherished his daughter, Elena, as the most precious thing in his life.
By that time, 1831, Americans were wandering all over the West, spreading out from Texas. Most of them were trappers and mountain men, some adventurers. There weren't many at first, but more and more of them came, hard, restless men who were careless of the great beauty of the land. The Peraltas looked down on these crude Americans, and Francisco forbade Elena to speak to any of them.
But one of the Americans, Duncan Sarratt, didn't care a snap of his fingers about Francisco's edicts. When he saw dainty Elena Peralta, he fell in love. Worse, Elena fell in love with him, too. Francisco raged, he threatened, he tried to intimidate both his daughter and the American. But he had given Elena too many years of loving indulgence for her to take his threats seriously. She
have her American.
So she did, and they married with Francisco's
reluctant permission. Not being a stupid man, however, he quickly saw that Duncan Sarratt was, perhaps, just what Elena had needed to protect her inheritance. The green-eyed American was a man who knew how to fight and how to protect his own.
Francisco didn't live long enough to see his grandchildren born. He died the next year, 1832, and Duncan Sarratt became ruler of the Peralta lands. He grew into such an absolute ruler that he became known as “King” Sarratt. It followed, as easily as night follows day, that the high valley became known as Sarratt's Kingdom.
The heirs to the kingdom were born: a son, Jacob, and two years later another son, Benjamin.
The boys grew up in the elegant adobe house built by their great-grandfather. They played games on the cool dark tiles, dangled by their hands from the courtyard balconies, wrestled and fought like two tiger cubs, and learned to love every inch of the kingdom that would be theirs.
But in 1845 the Americans fought a war with Mexico. It didn't touch the Sarratts much at first, as far north as they were. But one result of the war was that Mexico ceded to the United States that great and lovely land the Americans designated as the New Mexico Territory. With a whisk of a pen, the Sarratts were living on American soil.
The United States didn't recognize the laws and grants of the government it had replaced. The old Spanish landowners had been living on their granted land for a hundred years or more, but suddenly their homes were legally up for grabs. They could retain their land by filing on it, but most of them didn't know that. Duncan Sarratt, living in relative isolation in his huge valley kingdom, didn't know it. It didn't make much difference; anyone trying to take Sarratt's Kingdom away from him would have to fight to the death to do it.
* * *
The sound of gunfire woke the boy. He rolled from his bed and reached for his pants; the year was 1846, and at thirteen he had been doing a man's work on the ranch for the better part of two years. Whatever the trouble was, he didn't intend to hide from it under the bed like a kid.
He heard people running, and shouts echoed in the house as well as outside in the courtyard. He could hear his father's voice yelling orders. The boy stamped his feet into his boots and ran out into the hallway, tucking his nightshirt into his pants as he went. He collided with his younger brother, who had just bolted from his own room. He steadied the younger boy, who asked, “What's wrong?”
“I don't know.” He started down the hall with his brother at his heels.
They heard an explosion of gunfire downstairs, inside the house. There was a moment's silence, and then more shots followed, thundering, echoing through the high-ceilinged rooms. The boys automatically ducked to the side.