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Authors: Linda Devlin


BOOK: Sullivan
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The Rock Creek Six

Book 2




Linda Devlin






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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or locales is entirely coincidental.


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Copyright © 2001, 2011 by Linda Winstead Jones. All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions.


cover design by Elizabeth Wallace


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The Rock Creek Six Series

in series order

now available in eBook format











Chapter 1




"Aunt Eden, why are they hitting that man?"

Eden frowned as she pulled on the reins and halted the buckboard. "I don't know, but it doesn't seem fair at all," she said. "Six against one." Millie slid across the seat, closing the short distance that separated them. The little girl was clearly afraid, her eyes wide as she watched the scene unfolding in the middle of the street.

To Eden's way of thinking, such fear in a child wasn't right. Millie was only six years old, and yet she'd seen more than her share of injustice. It wasn't the child's fault that her mother had had the poor sense to become pregnant without benefit of marriage, or that the unfortunate woman had died so young. The little girl really should be in the care of a loving family, with a mother and a father and perhaps even brothers and sisters, but as not one of the families of Spring Hill, Georgia, had come forward to offer such an arrangement, Millie had become Eden's traveling companion. Goodness, she couldn't possibly have left the child behind.

Eden placed an arm around Millie and pulled her close. Millie's pale, curling head rested against Eden's side, and the little girl looked down so she wouldn't have to watch the melee that blocked their progress through the crossroads called, according to the weathered sign Eden had seen at the edge of town, Webberville. She hadn't even planned to stop here. They really should pass straight through the little town and travel for several more hours before setting up camp.

But in front of her eyes there unfolded an annoying complication to her simple plans. Six ruffians pounded on some poor man who could barely stand. One of the thugs would hold their victim up while another hammered his face and then his midsection. Then they would practically throw the beaten man across an open space and into the arms of an impatient hooligan who would start the nasty process all over again.

The man being thrashed no longer fought back. Eden had seen him attempt to throw a punch, just once, as she brought the buckboard to a halt, but since then he hadn't so much as lifted his arms. She suspected he was incapable of defending himself at this point. Goodness only knew how long this had been going on.

Quite a while, apparently. Long dark hair covered much of the underdog's face, but what little she could see was cut and covered with blood, as if this beating had been going on for some time.

"Teddy." Eden turned to the child who rode in the back of the buckboard only to find the boy as terrified as Millie, who continued to cling to Eden's side. Teddy Cannon was a few years older than Millie, nine years old, the exasperated sheriff who had handed him over had informed her. He hadn't said a single word since his uncle had died several months before, according to the same sheriff. Teddy's parents had both passed away two years back, and after the uncle's death there had been no more family to turn to. The poor boy had apparently resisted the alternative living arrangements that had been offered, running away from the blacksmith who'd agreed to provide room and board in exchange for help around his place. The sheriff and the blacksmith had both seemed relieved to be rid of the child.

Teddy's gaze was riveted on the beaten man, and his dark brown eyes shone with unshed tears.

"Teddy," Eden called again, and this time the child turned his fragile face to her. "Would you please sit up front with Millie for a moment and hold the reins?"

He scrambled over and took the reins she offered. Eden closed her hands over his, wrapping her gloved fingers around his small, trembling hands. "Don't be afraid."

He refused to look directly at her, as he often did. Wondering what had happened to Teddy drove her to distraction and made her so angry she tried not to dwell on the possibilities. Something had made him silent and more horribly frightened than any child should ever be. Children should
be afraid.

"I'll take care of it," she assured him.

With that, she climbed down from the wagon, unhurried in her movements, determination in her mind. No one would scare these children, not while they were in her care.

Eden brushed some of the trail dust from her blue calico skirt as she advanced toward the thugs. A hand to her hair confirmed her suspicion that it behaved as expected, as it had since she'd begun this rough leg of the trip, which meant her fair hair fell in disarray from the bun she'd attempted to fashion this morning.

She stopped several feet from the brawl, straightened her spine, and waited for a moment. When it became obvious that the ruffians either did not notice her or intended to ignore her presence, she cleared her throat. And then again.

Finally, they stopped pounding the poor man who was now slumped, practically unconscious, between two thugs who held him upright by the arms. Even if he had been physically able to defend himself, his arms were immobilized. "Excuse me, gentlemen," Eden said with a smile. "Your fracas is blocking the roadway and I must pass."

BOOK: Sullivan
2.26Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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