Four Weddings and a Kiss: A Western Bride Collection

Four Weddings and a Kiss: A Western Bride Collection

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Overview

"This collection is extremely entertaining and will make readers think back to their first kiss." ùRomantic Times, 4-1/2 Stars, TOP PICK!

Four best-selling, award-winning historical romance authors join together to share tales of unlikely love sparked in the late 1800s, reminding us that love often arrives in the most unexpected ways. 

Spitfire Sweetheart by Mary Connealy

Maizy Place is an unruly tomboy. When she causes an accident, injuring neighbor Rylan Carstens, she becomes his unlikely caregiver. Rylan has never noticed how pretty his infuriating neighbor is, and he never expected to fall in love.

A Love Letter to the Editor by Robin Lee Hatcher

Molly Everton is the outspoken daughter of the town newspaper's owner. When her father brings in an outsider to be editor, she tries to drive him out of town. But Jack Ludgrove is not intimidated. HeÆs resolved to change Molly's mind about himùas an editor and as a man.

A Cowboy for Katie by Debra Clopton

Katie Pearl has no interest in men or love. But she needs help on her ranch so she hires Thad Rayburn, a wandering cowboy looking to make a buck. Will Thad change KatieÆs mind?

Courting Trouble by Margaret Brownley

Grace Davenport is either the unluckiest woman aliveùor a killer. When her third husband is found dead, Grace is arrested. Attorney Brock Daniels isn't interested in the caseùuntil he meets Grace. Only a miracle will prove her innocence, but the joining of two lonely hearts may be their saving grace.

". . . four stories from four wonderful authors about the unpredictability of life, the amazingness of the Lord, and the wonderful ways He works within our lives to find that special someone He's picked out for us." ùCBA Retailers + Resources

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781401688561
Publisher: Nelson, Thomas, Inc.
Publication date: 06/17/2014
Sold by: HarperCollins Publishing
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 400
Sales rank: 32,734
File size: 1 MB

About the Author

New York Times best-selling author Margaret Brownley has penned more than twenty-five historical and contemporary novels. Her books have won numerous awards, including Reader’s Choice.Though successful, Margaret decided to leave behind the secular publishing world to follow God’s will for her: to write inspirational fiction. Since then she has published the Rocky Creek series and A Lady Like Sarah was a Romance Writers of America RITA finalist.Happily married to her real life hero, Margaret and her husband have three grown children and live in Southern California.

Robin Lee Hatcher is the author of over 80 novels and novellas with over five million copies of her books in print. She is known for her heartwarming and emotionally charged stories of faith, courage, and love. Her numerous awards include the RITA Award, the Carol Award, the Christy Award, the HOLT Medallion, the National Reader’s Choice Award, and the Faith, Hope & Love Reader’s Choice Award. Robin is also the recipient of prestigious Lifetime Achievement Awards from both American Christian Fiction Writers and Romance Writers of America. When not writing, she enjoys being with her family, spending time in the beautiful Idaho outdoors, Bible art journaling, reading books that make her cry, watching romantic movies, and decorative planning. Robin makes her home on the outskirts of Boise, sharing it with a demanding Papillon dog and a persnickety tuxedo cat.


Debra Clopton is a multi-award winning novelist who was first published in 2005 and has more than 22 novels to her credit. Along with her writing, Debra helps her husband teach the youth at their local Cowboy Church. Debra is the author of the acclaimed Mule Hollow Matchmaker Series, the place readers tell her they wish was real. Her goal is to shine a light toward God while she entertains readers with her words. Visit her online at www.debraclopton.com, Facebook: debra.clopton, Twitter: @debraclopton.

 

Read an Excerpt

Four Weddings and a Kiss

A WESTERN BRIDE COLLECTION


By Margaret Brownley, Robin Lee Hatcher, Mary Connealy, Debra Clopton

Thomas Nelson

Copyright © 2014 Mary Connealy, Robin Lee Hatcher, Debra Clopton, and Margaret Brownley
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4016-8854-7



CHAPTER 1

Saurita, New Mexico, 1879


Maizy MacGregor leaned her head back against the rocks, accidentally knocking her Stetson off. She grabbed it as it fell, then tossed it aside in disgust. She had on men's clothes—the hat, britches, shirt, boots, even a six-gun she wore on her hip. It had never bothered her before Rylan Carstens.

She wiped her eyes. It was sure enough bothering her now.

The water roared beside her, cascading down in a rush. She came here when she needed to be alone. And she really needed that now.

Tossing aside her buckskin gloves, she pulled her red handkerchief out of her hip pocket—no lace kerchief tucked up her sleeve for Maizy—and wiped her eyes again, then blew her nose in a completely unladylike way.

How had she let herself get this upset? And over a man, of all things.

Over the neighbor whom she'd long ago accepted would never see her as anything but a child, and an unattractive, annoying child at that.

She was used to it, and she ignored it mostly, but today it stung. He'd found her walking among his Angus cattle.

Maizy looked to her left and watched the sleek black herd spread out along the downhill slope. Usually she didn't go near them. Instead, she'd just slip into this spot. She'd been using it for a getaway since childhood. But this morning, not for the first time, she'd walked among his herd. They were gentle cattle, not a horn on a single one of them. They weren't tame enough to touch—they gave way if she got too close. But they didn't run for the hills one day, then attack the next like longhorns tended to do.

She'd heard they were gentle, even the bulls. And she was savvy about cattle. She knew how to judge their tempers and stay clear of them when necessary. Her eyes rested on one especially young calf that might have been born just today, long after cows usually threw their calves.

Maizy knew better than to go near a new mama, no matter how easygoing she'd been before her calf was born.

She'd told Rylan all that and tried to make him see she was in no danger. He'd thrown her off his land anyway and even followed her home to complain to Pa, like she was a misbehaving child. He'd forbidden her to trespass ever again.

But the minute she could get away, she came here, to her special place. The river was the border between his property and her pa's, and it was true she was, right this minute, on the trespassing side. She barely had a toe over the line, and she was completely safe from his placid, fat cattle, so surely he wouldn't complain about that.

She took a little pleasure in defying him. And it was a harmless defiance, especially if he didn't know she was here.

Her horse was tied well across the river, on MacGregor land, cropping grass. She couldn't see the brown-and-white pinto from here and neither could her neighbor.

Hoping to get control of her hurt, she let herself soak in the peace of stone and water and air, loving the way this rocky ledge cut off the world. She couldn't hear anything other than the rushing water. Her spot was curved into the rocks, and she could only see straight ahead and to the left. Water cascaded down from the mountain peaks on the right. Her almost-cave hid her from behind and overhead.

She was in her own world, alone with her thoughts.

Then a gunshot cut through the air, and she sat up straight and banged her head.

Looking for the source of that gun, she turned and saw him.

Rylan Carstens.

And he was coming straight for her, galloping on his big chestnut stallion. Even at this distance she could tell he was looking right at her. How had he known she was in here?

Another gunshot echoed from his Winchester.

Rylan bent low over his horse, coming as fast as he could on the rocky ground that rose to this bluff along the river. Was he trying to kill her? If so, he was doing a poor job of it. The bullets were missing, going way over her head. But even on her worst day, she'd never done anything to make the man killing mad.

And Maizy knew, even though Rylan seemed like a mighty cranky man, that he wasn't the type to shoot a young woman, especially not for just being annoying.

He fired again and again, working the levered handle on his Winchester, and she finally realized he was firing warning shots. But warning who—about what?

She scrambled out of the little overhang and took a few running steps to make sure he saw her and wouldn't fire in her direction.

That's when she heard the growl ... and the bellow.

Spinning around, she looked up. On the ledge that formed the roof of her little cave, standing on its hind legs, was the biggest grizzly she'd ever seen.

Movement to her side forced her to look, though it was madness to turn away. The huge Angus bull that lorded over this part of Carstens's herd pawed the ground, and like all bulls, guarded his herd fiercely. There were only two things between that huge bear and that angry bull.

The shining black calf, born out of season, still wobbly.

And Maizy.

The bull might be threatening the bear, but the bear only had eyes for Maizy. The rest of the cow herd, save the frantic mama, turned and stampeded away.

The bull charged.

The bear dropped to all fours and crouched to attack.

Pound for pound there was no meaner animal on the face of the earth than a grizzly. Maizy had a Colt in her holster, but a bullet wasn't enough to bring one of these huge beasts down. Maybe a perfect shot right into the heart or brain would do it ... but mostly ... getting shot just made 'em mad.

The bear's beady, bloodshot eyes were riveted on Maizy.

The bull bellowed and turned the grizzly's attention.

Maizy saw her chance and ran.

A shout and another blast of gunfire sent Maizy running straight down the grassy slope for Rylan. Her eyes locked with his and she saw horror. She thought he'd seen her, but she could tell he'd been out here riding herd and seen the grizzly.

A thud from behind told her the bear was off the ledge. Another growl seemed to blow hot breath on the back of Maizy's neck. Or maybe that was just the hair on the back of her neck standing up in pure terror.

The bull charged, putting itself between the bear and the calf, then stopped to paw the earth with its front feet.

Rylan fired again and again.

Sprinting to get out of the middle, Maizy heard the thunder ing hooves ahead, the scratching claws of the grizzly right behind, and the deep-throated threats from the bull.

The calf bawled piteously. The anxious mama cow rushed to her baby and began leading it away as fast as its unsteady legs would carry it.

Judging from the growling behind her, Maizy knew the grizzly was more interested in her than a belligerent Angus.

Running, hoping the bear would give up, she raced straight for Rylan.

She saw his eyes take in the danger, then go to his bull, then come back to her. He kept firing and racing forward.

Sprinting flat out, her boots thumped out a desperate beat.

He jammed his rifle back into its scabbard on the saddle and drew his six-gun. He couldn't shoot the bear—Maizy was right in the way—but he kept up the gunfire, probably hoping he'd scare the grizzly into breaking off the attack.

It wasn't working worth a hoot.

"Maizy," Rylan shouted as they closed the gap, "grab my hand."

He kicked his foot out of one stirrup to give Maizy a place to land. He holstered his pistol and took a firm hold of his pommel. Their eyes locked. He nodded at her. She tightened her jaw in grim determination and nodded back.

His hand extended. She slapped her hand into his and he caught her. The grip slid. He clamped onto her wrist with the other hand, leaving the horse without a hand on the reins. He swung her up and she aimed to end up behind him. In the rush, she didn't get a good swing, and Rylan made a desperate heave to keep her from falling to the ground. She landed facedown in front of him, her belly right on the pommel of his saddle. She was glad to be wearing britches.

Rylan pulled hard to bring his horse to a stop, and he unloaded his gun on the bear. The horse tried to rear and tossed its head in fear. The iron bit jingled as the horse fought Rylan's control.

Maizy turned to her left to watch the bear wheel to face the bull. The bull must've thought better of fighting now that his herd was out of the way. He turned and ran.

The bullets were little more than stinging wasps to the bear and only served to turn its attention back to Rylan.

The powerful red horse pivoted, and on its first stride leapt into a full gallop.

Grizzly bears, huge as they were, were mighty fast. Maizy knew that from growing up in the mountains of New Mexico and meeting up with a few, though never this close. But their speed was short-lived—or so she'd heard.

She sure as shootin' hoped that proved to be true. If the horse could outrun the monster for a few yards, they'd make it.

Maizy, head down, clung to Rylan's right leg. The pommel cut into her gut, and her own legs dangled off the other side. She wanted to search for that empty stirrup but was mindful not to jar Rylan or distract him from getting the most out of his thoroughbred.

Those thundering front hooves kicked up nearly to Maizy's face. She lifted her head enough to peek around Rylan's boot and saw the bear gaining on them. Its jaws gaped open. It closed in on the horse even with the stallion going at full speed.

"Hang on." Rylan kicked his horse and the valiant chestnut, already wild with fear, dug deep and found more speed. The bear lunged forward and a huge paw, claws bared, took a swipe and snagged the horse's tail. That swipe broke the bear's charge.

Finally they were stretching out the distance between them as the bear slowed. It dropped to a trot, then a walk, then stood up on two legs, front paws extended in the air, and sent them on their way with an ugly chain of growling threats. Maizy's belly was being stabbed good and hard. She hadn't paid it much mind until now. The horse was safely away, and Maizy saw the grizzly turn and jog back the way it'd come. "It's stopped," Maizy shouted.

"Hang on!" Rylan's ordered shout brought Maizy's head around, and she saw that the ground was broken ahead. This was Rylan's land, but Maizy had lived here all her life. She knew this was a bad stretch, littered with boulders and cut by water running off the mountain to the river.

The horse was running away, terrorized. Rylan was easing the horse up, but they weren't going slow enough to navigate the dangerous patch. No horse racing full speed could hope to get through it unharmed.

The horse tossed its head and fought the reins, but finally began to respond. Maizy recognized the expert handling of the reins as Rylan tried to gain control of the panicked horse.

They reached the first line of scattered rocks.

Rylan picked his moment and yelled, "Whoa!"

He pulled back hard and the horse skidded until it nearly sat down on its haunches. As they came to a stop, the horse neighed and reared, straight up, higher and higher. Maizy felt the stallion going over backward.

Rylan shoved her so she fell off feetfirst and he dove to the other side. Maizy rolled over and over, afraid of where the horse might land, until she came up hard against a massive stone. She whirled to see Rylan being dragged, one foot stuck in the stirrup. Leaping to her feet, Maizy drew her gun to shoot the horse that had saved their lives, just as Rylan fell free and rolled hard against a boulder.

Maizy heard the crack as Rylan's head struck stone.

She raced on shaking legs to where he lay flat on his back. Out cold. His face white as ash.

Maizy crawled to his side, terrified that he was dead. His chest rose and fell steadily. He was alive! Looking around, she saw that his horse was nowhere in sight. A lump was already rising on his forehead, and seconds later she saw blood soaking through his tattered pants. Drawing her knife, she slit the leg of his britches. His knee was bleeding and his leg already showed some swelling.

It had to be broken.

Maizy looked around. She was miles from anywhere. His horse was long gone. Rylan was too heavy to lift.

A wild cry far overhead drew her eyes up to a soaring eagle. The isolation of this place tightened like a vise around her throat.

Praying frantically for wisdom, she remembered her pinto on the far side of the river. There was a ford. She could get the mare here ... if the grizzly hadn't scared her into breaking her reins and racing for home.

Maizy would have to go for the horse. Besides that grizzly, there were rattlesnakes. Buzzards might scent blood, with Rylan unconscious—Maizy shuddered to think of that. There were even wolves and cougars in the area. To get the mare, Maizy would have to leave Rylan utterly defenseless.

She looked at his handsome face. He'd risked his life to save her. He'd abandoned a bull that cost a fortune and used every ounce of his strength to get her to safety.

And now she needed to do as much for him. And to do that, she had to leave him lying here.

No alternative came to her, so she jumped to her feet and ran.


* * *

Maizy hurried to her mare in double time. She had worked with her pa plenty, and she knew how to treat a beat-up cowboy, although she'd never seen one quite this beaten before.

When she got back to his side, Rylan lay still as death. His leg was almost certainly broken. Should she cut the boot off? The swelling had gotten so bad she was afraid he had no circulation, yet how much damage might she do removing the boot? Praying for wisdom beyond what she possessed, she decided to leave it, at least for now.

She'd been thinking the whole time she fetched her horse. Now she tethered her horse and rushed toward the nearest slope, covered with quaking aspens.

Feeling the minutes tick by and knowing that boot was strangling Rylan's leg, she hacked down slender saplings with her sturdy, razor-sharp knife and returned to make a travois. Pa had taught her the way of it years before.

She used the lasso on her pommel to weave a triangular net between two trees. Once she was satisfied it would hold, she moved the contraption so the ends of the young trees were on either side of his head. Then, with a remaining stretch of rope, she tied a loop under Rylan's arms, hooked him to her horse, and hoping he stayed unconscious, she pulled Rylan up the length of the travois with aching slowness. He was slim but tall with broad shoulders, made of solid muscle that made him heavy. It took some finagling to get him in place, but finally he lay fully on top of the makeshift travois.

Then she lifted each side of the front ends of the travois and used a pigging string to hitch the ends to her stirrups.

As she lashed the second aspen pole in place, Rylan groaned.

Maizy rushed to his side.

His blue eyes flickered open, but he stared through her, still dazed. She rested one hand on his shoulder.

"Lie very still. I'm taking you home."

"Maizy." Rylan spoke that one word, then passed out again.

Because she was praying so hard when she felt a twist of fear about his leg, she decided it was God putting the notion in her head. She'd get the boot off while Rylan was unconscious.

She slit the tough leather to the ankle until it was loose enough to be safe. She left it on to act as a splint. She swung astride her pinto and clucked to the well-trained horse. They set out slowly, crossing the boulder-strewn ground, trying to avoid bumps. Maizy turned on her saddle and watched Rylan nearly every second, only glancing ahead to check the terrain.

He never stirred.

Rylan had come to Pa's house several times in the year since he moved in. There were no other ranches for miles and even their places were far apart. He'd never been friendly—to her. Though she had caught him looking at her a few times when he'd come by.

Except for those occasional looks, she'd always had the impression he was avoiding her. And the fact that he was so attractive pinched hard.

She'd done her best to ignore him, but she'd taken a liking to his herd of shining black Angus cattle. In fact she liked them a whole lot more than him.

When he'd followed her home earlier that day and told her pa the bulls were dangerous, Rylan had looked at her in the eyes for the first time, forbidding Maizy from riding on his land. He'd also said a few words about a woman dressing in britches and running around the country alone. Said it was dangerous. But Maizy had worked hard alongside her pa on the ranch since she could sit a saddle. She could take care of herself.

She was tough, but the handsome cowboy made her doubt herself. She liked not wearing dresses and fussing with her hair. She could cook well enough and she did chores in the house. But they rarely went to town since they lived over an hour away. When they did, she wore a dress, but she grumbled the whole time.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Four Weddings and a Kiss by Margaret Brownley, Robin Lee Hatcher, Mary Connealy, Debra Clopton. Copyright © 2014 Mary Connealy, Robin Lee Hatcher, Debra Clopton, and Margaret Brownley. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Contents

Prologue, ix,
Spitfire Sweetheart By Mary Connealy, 1,
A Love Letter to the Editor By Robin Lee Hatcher, 85,
A Cowboy for Katie By Debra Clopton, 181,
Courting Trouble By Margaret Brownley, 277,
Epilogue, 375,

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