Read Her Outlaw Online

Authors: Geralyn Dawson

Tags: #Fiction, #Romance, #Historical

Her Outlaw

BOOK: Her Outlaw
3.21Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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G
ERALYN
D
AWSON

H
ER
O
UTLAW

To my readers
Who just can’t get enough Bad Luck.

CONTENTS

PROLOGUE

CHAPTER ONE

CHAPTER TWO

CHAPTER THREE

CHAPTER FOUR

CHAPTER FIVE

CHAPTER SIX

CHAPTER SEVEN

CHAPTER EIGHT

CHAPTER NINE

CHAPTER TEN

CHAPTER ELEVEN

CHAPTER TWELVE

CHAPTER THIRTEEN

CHAPTER FOURTEEN

CHAPTER FIFTEEN

CHAPTER SIXTEEN

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

CHAPTER NINETEEN

 

PROLOGUE

Edinburgh, 1896

I’
VE FOUND HIM
. After all this time. He isn’t dead, after all.

Fate has delivered Alasdair MacRae to me.

Hamish Campbell absently played a ten of hearts, his gaze resting on the faint scar beside MacRae’s right eye. The result, he knew, of a cut from a signet ring during a backhanded blow. A mistake, that. One of youth and impatience and a temper slipped beyond control. It remained the biggest regret of his life.

Now, Fate had delivered this second chance literally to his table, and the card player could barely contain his glee.

The predator within began to plan. How to best take advantage of the moment? Subtlety was called for. Secrecy, too. It wouldn’t do to have the prey catch his scent before the prize was within his grasp.

And such a prize it was. The Sisters’ Prize. A treasure beyond measure. It should be his. It
would
be his.

What once was lost, now was found. Alasdair MacRae was the key.

CHAPTER ONE

London, 1897

E
MMA
M
C
B
RIDE
T
ATE WANTED
to be wicked.

It was an itch that demanded to be scratched. A yearning deep in the marrow of her bones. She wanted to throw off the bonds of convention and revert to her childhood ways. She wanted to be bad again, if only for a little while.

How sad that the most daring thing she could think to do was to sneak off from London’s Savoy Hotel and window shop by herself while her sister and grandmother indulged in an afternoon nap.

“Emma, you wild woman, you,” she grumbled beneath her breath as she strolled down a busy street.

Once upon a time, she’d been a true mischief maker. The eldest of three sisters dubbed the McBride Menaces by the citizens of Fort Worth, Texas, she’d led her siblings in shenanigans ranging from mild pranks to out-and-out crimes. She’d released sneezing powder into the ventilation system at church and flown her arch-enemy Charlotte Russell’s bloomers from the county courthouse flagpole. She’d robbed her first train by the age of twelve and kidnapped a man before the same year was out.

Then, at the ripe old age of nineteen, she’d sneaked her fiancé, Casey Tate, into her bedroom at Willow Hill for a little not-so-innocent play.

For the first twenty years of her life, Emma lived like a hellion, a spitfire, a Menace—but when pneumonia claimed Casey’s life three months into their marriage, her mischief died with him. For the last ten years, the closest she’d come to true adventure was watching her sisters experience it.

And she was tired of it. She was tired of the monotony of her life, tired of teaching school, tired of being the Widow Tate. The Menace in her was stirring, and once again, she craved excitement and adventure. She craved wickedness.

She was a restless Texan in London, strolling Oxford Street on a springtime afternoon looking for trouble.

She found it.

At a shop across the street, a man held a door open for a trio of doddering elderly ladies. He was tall and muscular with shoulders as broad as the Brazos River beneath his dark gentleman’s jacket. He wore his thick black hair short, his face clean shaven. His square jaw, chiseled cheekbones, and thin, straight nose gave him a masculine beauty that any woman would admire.

But it was his eyes that stole Emma’s breath. Set deep beneath raven brows, the color a unique silver-gray, they radiated power. Danger. And they were focused on her.

Yes, trouble with a capital
T.

Awareness skittered along her nerves. She felt like a fluffy, feminine rabbit pinned by a sleek, strong, gray-eyed mountain cat. Her mouth went dry, her knees a little weak.

The moment ended when a boxy omnibus rattled down the street and broke the line of sight. By the time the vehicle passed, the man had disappeared.

Emma sighed with a mixture of relief and disappointment. A man like that would likely offer more adventure than she needed.

She continued her stroll. Springtime weather had brought shoppers and sightseers out in force. Women’s perfumes clashed on the breeze as conversations buzzed. Emma grinned down at a rosy-cheeked infant, then smiled at the uniformed nanny pushing the perambulator. Stopping to buy a bouquet of yellow daisies from a flower girl on a corner, she eavesdropped on a conversation about Sarah Bernhardt’s performance in
La Samaritaine.

The aroma of baking bread caught her notice, and as she contemplated following its aroma to its source, a display in a variety store’s plate glass window caught her eye. Emma halted in her tracks. “Oh, my.”

“It’s awful, isn’t it?” came a male voice from behind her.

Emma glanced over her shoulder and caught herself just before she said “oh, my” a second time.

It was him. Trouble. Standing close enough for her to smell the sandalwood in his scent.

Her pulse spiked. “Excuse me?”

He gestured toward the window, and that’s when Emma noticed the ice cream cone he held in his right hand. Eating on the public street? A rule-breaker, then. Of course.

Her mouth watered.

“The mannequin. Not exactly an effective sales tool, in my opinion. What could the designer have been thinking?” He took a long lick of his ice cream cone, and Emma forced herself to look away. Darned if her neck didn’t tingle as if he’d licked her.

“The mannequin looks like a donkey,” she observed.

“All it’s lacking is a tail.”

She noted Trouble’s lack of a British accent—lack of any accent, actually—and wondered about his origins before turning her attention to the figure in the window. It was obviously supposed to represent a woman wearing a fashionable travel bonnet and a gray traveling cloak. But the…wings—for lack of a better term—on the bonnet, the model’s exceedingly long face, and the way the ill-fitting bustle gave the figure a four-legged look rather than two made the result comical. Emma could just imagine what her sisters would say if they were standing here with her.

“Aha,” said the man. “Your smile brims with mischief. I insist you share your thoughts.”

Emma laughed. She had no business talking to a stranger on the street, but she so enjoyed the zing of excitement that resulted. “I was thinking of my sisters. One of them would surely dare me to sneak inside and pin a tail on the mannequin.”

Amusement lit those intriguing gray eyes. He took another bold lick of his cone, then reached into his jacket pocket and drew out a red silk scarf. A woman’s red silk scarf. Holding it out to her, he boldly challenged, “Do it.”

“What?” Emma took a step back, giving a shaky little laugh.

“I’ll stand for your sisters. What’s your name, my dear?”

She shouldn’t…“Emma. Emma Tate.”

“I’m Alasdair. Dair. And I’m daring you, Emma.” He twisted his wrist, waving the bright red scarf in front of her face. “Sashay into Blankenship’s and pin the tail on the donkey.”

Temptation stirred. Needs long suppressed rose up within her. Emma focused on the scarf, circling her lips with her tongue. “Why should I take such a risk?”

His voice was smooth and mellow as aged whiskey. “Why, for the prize, of course.”

She jerked her gaze up. He stared at her mouth. “Prize?” she croaked out.

“Do you like…ice cream, Emma?” He took a big bite of his chocolate cone.

Emma shivered. At this particular moment, she absolutely craved ice cream. Her blood stirred, her senses grew acute. With the stranger’s gray-eyed gaze holding her spellbound, she felt more alive than she had in years.

She should leave. Right now. She should turn away, march back to the Savoy, take a seat in the rocker beside the fireplace, and read a book.

Instead, she indulged herself and allowed the brazen buried within her to flutter back to life. “Yes. Yes, I do.”

He grinned at her, tossed her the scarf.

Emma caught it, wrinkled her nose at the cloying feminine perfume wafting from the silk. Lifting her chin, she said, “I prefer strawberry ice cream, please.”

He gave her a two-fingered salute as she walked boldly into the store.

Blankenship’s offered a variety of feminine fripperies, and as Emma greeted a salesclerk and pretended to shop, the female in her couldn’t help but compare the quality of the merchandise to that which could be found at home. As she’d discovered so often during her forays into London shops, the handwork on the ready-made dresses couldn’t compare to what her mother produced. Emboldened by a sense of American superiority, Emma casually made her way closer to the window display.

He stood where she’d left him. His eyes made contact with hers through the window glass, holding her captive as he slowly licked a dribble of ice cream off his thumb. Emma flushed and tried to concentrate on the task at hand.

This would be easier if Mari and Kat were here to run interference for her and keep the male salesclerk distracted, but Mari was back in Texas with her husband Luke Garrett, happily swelling with her third pregnancy, while Kat was snoozing at the Savoy. However, judging by the salesclerk’s obvious lack of enthusiasm for his job, she expected him to lose interest in her if she “just browsed” long enough. With scarves on her mind, she hovered over that display, clucking her tongue, tsking and sighing and showing no sign of making up her mind.

From the corner of her eye, she saw Dair shaking his head at her selections. The man didn’t care for drab colors.
How interesting he paid any attention to me, then.

Stop it. She wasn’t being drab now, was she? Drab women didn’t play silly pranks because a handsome gentleman with a wicked smile dared it of them.

On the other side of the window glass, he sucked the tip off the cone. Emma’s nipples tightened.

She forced her attention back to the display table.

The entrance of a pair of potential customers into the shop offered the opportunity she’d waited for. “I simply can’t decide between the teal and the peacock,” she declared, removing two scarves from the table. “I must see them both in the sunlight.”

The clerk glanced her way. “Um, madam, it is not allowed to take items from the store prior to purchase.”

“Oh, la,” she said gaily. “I’m not going outside. Just over here to the window.”

Since the window stood well away from the door, the salesclerk paid her little mind as she approached the display with the two scarves in hand. On the other side of the large window, Alasdair took another long lick of his cone and nodded toward the teal. It was a pretty color, Emma thought. Maybe once the bet was done, she’d buy it.

Finding a beam of sunlight, she held the silk cloths up and made a show of continuing her clucking and sighing. Within moments, the salesclerk dismissed her completely, turning all his attention toward the women dawdling over expensive handbags. Seeing her chance, her heart pounding, mischief humming in her blood, Emma yanked a pin from her hat and slid the red silk scarf from her pocket as she slipped into the window display. Within seconds the “donkey” sported a tail.

Giggles bubbled, threatened to erupt from within her, so Emma beat a hasty retreat from the shop, commenting on poor dye quality as she sailed empty-handed past the annoyed but clueless salesclerk. Out on the sidewalk, a glance at the window had the laughter escaping, spilling out on a wave of glee she’d not experienced for years. What a fun, foolish bit of childishness. It made her feel young again. Made her feel free again.

BOOK: Her Outlaw
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