Sarah Keevers had lived and worked in an orphanage in St. Louis since she was five years old. She’d stayed on to protect the younger children from the harsh headmistress. Now, she’s inherited money from a grandfather she never knew she had, and she wants to take the children far away. The only problems are the children don’t legally belong to her, and women have no legal rights in 1856.
So, Sarah changes her name to Samuel Kees, disguises the children, and heads west with her new family. She settles in Big Springs and meets up with Abe West, the local sheriff, and his brother, Ike. The two men discover her secret and decide she’d make the perfect wife.
They’re going to do everything they can to earn her trust. Will they be able to protect Sarah, and hold on to her love when her picture shows up on a wanted poster for kidnapping?
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“Stay close, guys.” Sarah began leading them toward the train. She turned around to make sure the boys were staying together and collided with a hard body. She turned, already offering an apology. “I’m so sorry, I wasn’t watching where I was…” She looked up into the face of the most handsome man she’d ever seen. He was tall, well over six feet, and muscular with brown hair and eyes. She could feel herself blushing.
“I’m sorry, young man. I wasn’t watching where I was going.” He glanced at the children and frowned, then turned back to Sarah. “My name is Isaac West, but you can call me Ike.” He held his hand out and looked at Sarah expectantly.
Reluctantly, Sarah placed her hand in his and shook it vigorously, like she thought a man would. She narrowed her eyes when she caught his slight smirk. “I’m Samuel…” She coughed to hide her hesitation. “Kees, Samuel Kees.”
Ike frowned and stared at the children huddled together. “Samuel, huh? Well, Samuel, are these your kids?”
Sarah tried to move the children further toward the train. “No, these are my sisters and brother. We’re traveling to meet up with our uncle. If you’ll excuse me, I wanna make sure we get on the train and get seats together.
Ike tipped his hat. “Pleasure to meet you, young man. Enjoy your trip. I’m sure I’ll see you around since we’re taking the same train.”
Sarah watched as he strolled toward the ticket counter. Zeke pulled on her arm. “What is it, Zeke?” she whispered.
“Are you okay, Samuel? Your face is getting mighty red.”
Sarah groaned to herself. “Come on, let’s get aboard and find some seats.
* * * *
Ike stopped and watched through the train’s window as the young boy seated the children on the train. All five of them squeezed into three seats. Something didn’t feel right. There was something off about the boy, but he couldn’t figure out what was wrong. Even the kids didn’t seem quite right.
He’d been working as a bounty hunter the past few years, trying to earn enough money to join up with his brother in Big Springs. They’d come west several years back with the idea of starting up a farm together. They’d planned on finding themselves a wife and settling down to raise a family. They’d just started settling in when they got word their Pa was real sick. One of them had to go home to help out their Ma.
Ike had always gotten along better with his Pa, so they decided he would travel home. His brother, Abe, took on the job of sheriff in Big Springs so he could earn money toward their dream while Ike was away. Ike did everything he could, but it hadn’t helped. Their Pa had succumbed to his ailment and passed away not long after he’d arrived. Ike had stayed on and helped his Ma settle in at her brother’s farm. It had cost a lot to get her moved, so he’d had to find a way to earn some more money toward his own dreams.
He’d accidently managed to bring in his first contract as a bounty hunter. He’d come across a man on the road after his horse had thrown him and run off. Turned out, the man had a hundred dollar bounty on his head. When he’d tried to steal Ike’s horse, he’d knocked him out and taken him to the sheriff. When he’d realized how much money he could bring in from bounty hunting, he’d kept after it. For the past two years he’d been on one job after another. Now, he had a nice nest egg, and he was ready to go home to Big Springs.
Ike boarded the train and took a seat a few rows back from the traveling family. He leaned back and pushed his hat over his eyes. He had to figure out a way to find out what was going on with Samuel Kees because he was sure hiding something. He sighed and settled further onto the hard bench. There was time to get some rest before he had to confront the boy. They wouldn’t make any stops for a couple of hours. It was going to be a long trip.