Hearts in Defiance (Romance in the Rockies Book 2)

 

 

 

 

Heather Blanton

 

 

Hearts in Defiance

 

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the express written permission of Rivulet Publishing or the author.

 

This novel is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places,
incidents, and dialogues are either the product of the author’s imagination or
are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales,
organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental and beyond
the intent of the author.

 

Cover DESIGN by http://ravven78.deviantart.com/

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE,

KING JAMES VERSION - Public Domain

 

A huge
thank you
to my editors and beta readers: David
Webb, Kim VanDerwarker Huther, Vicki Prather, Heather Baker, Sally Shupe,
Connie Bartley White, Carole Sanders, and Kimberly Buffaloe!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in
Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me
free from the law of sin and death.

Romans 8:1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Foreword

 

 

 

Dear Reader,

What an amazing journey I’ve been on these last several years, but
especially the last two. I self-published
A Lady in Defiance
 
in February of 2012 and, by the grace of God, it became a best
seller. No marketing. No publisher. No PR
.
Just God
and your word-of-mouth. I don’t have the words to express my gratitude to Him
for His grace, or to you for picking up a book by an unknown author and then
telling your friends about it. Oh, thank you, thank you.

Against the advice of folks in the traditional publishing industry,
I opted to write the sequel
Hearts in Defiance
for you, the reader.
Aren’t all books written for the reader? Hardly. Just like
A Lady in
Defiance
, this is an ensemble piece. Publishers are leery of those. The
plots are too complicated. And while
Hearts
is a stand-alone story, it
picks up where the first left off. Again, not what publishers suggested. They
wanted a new storyline with only slight references to the first book.

I couldn’t do it.

I wanted to write the story
you
wanted to read. I hope and
pray I have accomplished that. I’ve read your emails, reviews on Amazon, and
comments on Facebook; then I evaluated your desires for the sequel and tried to
work them into this new story.

I also wanted to write a story that would show, no matter who you
are or what you’ve done, God is waiting to forgive you, but you need to accept
His forgiveness. Even after we take it to God, most of us hang onto our sin,
letting it slither around us like an evil, constricting vine from the Black
Forest. That’s an illusion. Once we’re forgiven, sin is only a thin, brittle
piece of wood covered in dead leaves. Accept His forgiveness, raise your arms
to heaven, and explode that vine! Rejoice as the dust settles at your feet. You
are worthy of His love, you are redeemed, and you are free!

I hope in this book, gentle reader, you will hear the Father
bending down to whisper in your ear, “
You’re a new creation, beloved. No
more looking back.”

 

Blessings, my friends!

 

 

 

Prologue

 

 

Never had the sound of galloping horses brought Chief Ouray
anything but death and disaster.

Though his dreams were
haunted by screams and the echoes of rifle fire, the hoofbeats of unshod ponies
roused Ouray instantly from his afternoon nap. He sat up in the rocking chair
and squinted at the riders, emerging from the Ponderosa pines, coming hard.
Dread squirmed in his heart. He rarely had visitors anymore, and when he did,
they wanted only to argue and complain.

Soul-weary, Ouray pushed
himself out of the chair and trudged to the edge of his porch. Six braves
thundered toward him. The sun glinted off their fine, lean bodies, highlighting
the dancing feathers and bright war paint covering them in intricate patterns.

Ouray recognized one of the
riders and breathed a white man’s curse. The brave leading the pack,
One-Who-Cries, lived to cause trouble. Always had. One-Who-Cries had tried to
kill Ouray more than once for trading too much away to the white man. But Ouray
had seen the strength of the white man, their fine cities, their soldiers
numbering greater than pebbles on a river bank. They could not be defeated.
Ouray had known early on that the best his people could hope for was mercy. But
these young bucks would not accept this truth, and their blood burned with a
killing fire.

The six horses pounded up to
his house and skidded to a stop, kicking up dust. But Ouray did not flinch.
Their paint told him they had not come to kill him. Someone else was their
prey.

“How are you today, old
man?” One-Who-Cries mocked him. “Do you rest peacefully in your
house
while the Utes at White River live in windowless boxes and use their ponies to
pull plows?”

Bones creaking, Ouray drew
himself up to his still-impressive height, folded his arms across his chest,
and waited. He’d heard such complaints many times before. Responding to this
sharp-tongued badger would change nothing.

Frowning, One-Who-Cries
slapped his horse’s reins back and forth as if pondering the old man’s silence.
His large nose and dark eyes had always reminded Ouray of a bear, but the child
had always acted more like an ill-tempered porcupine. Much as Ouray loved the
little ones, he had never found a place in his heart for this boy. And now the
boy had grown into a dangerous warrior. It grieved Ouray that his only daughter
had wed the hot-tempered renegade.

Through wasting time,
One-Who-Cries shook his head and attempted to wither Ouray with a disgusted
glare. “I come to tell you there have been attacks. A village on the Yampa.
Men, women, children, the white man spared no one.”

Ouray waited. He knew the
young man was getting to the point, though at a wearisome pace.

“Three days ago, white
miners came across a hunting party of Uncompahgre and slaughtered them, too.
Took their meat, their furs, their weapons.”

If Ouray had allowed himself
a reaction, he would have spit on the ground and uttered another white man’s
curse. Every time peace was close, a short-sighted Injun or drunken paleface
set fire to it. There were bad white men just as there were bad Indians. The
result was the same. The Utes gave up more land.


More
gold has been
found in the Uintah Valley.” One-Who-Cries knit his brows together as if he
couldn’t understand Ouray’s lack of outrage. “Whites are flowing in like
melting spring snow. They are overrunning our lands, ruining our hunting
grounds, taking our women—”

“You have not come to tell
me this,” Ouray interrupted him, more than a little perturbed by this strutting
rooster. “What is it you plan to do?”

One-Who-Cries leaned forward
on his black-and-white pinto, staring hard at the old man, dark eyes blazing
with hate. “From this day forward, for every Ute they kill, I will kill
two
white
men. For every squaw they steal, I will steal
two
white women.” The
young brave’s voice dripped with venom as he hissed, “We will burn their camps,
steal their horses, and shoot a hundred arrows into their backs. We will
enslave their children, rape their daughters, and bury the white man on Ute
land till they come no more seeking gold.”

“Killing one white man is
like dipping water from a rushing river.” Ouray spoke from deep, painful
experience. The whites were a wildfire engulfing his people, one that didn’t
know how to burn itself out. “The Utes are fading away, like the buffalo,” he
reminded the young warrior, “like the great summer hunts, like the valleys
where no man has stepped.” Regret for so many things tightened his throat.
“What you do will only bring more misery upon our people.”

One-Who-Cries’ face
tightened at the warning, his lips curling into a sneer. “This time, the white
man will have the greater portion.”

~~~

 

                                                                                     

 

 

One

 

 

Charles McIntyre sat down at his desk in his saloon and stared at
his Bible.

He almost laughed out loud but in the silence, the sound would
have been deafening. He knew plenty of people who
would
laugh. A former
pimp, saloon owner, and gunman reading the
Bible
.

Do you really think you’re
worthy to come before Him?

The subtle rebuke pricked
his soul. But he was determined and reached for the book. Naomi had said
several times during his convalescence that all the answers to his questions
would be found there. Rolling mental dice, since he didn’t know exactly how to
start, he opened the book and read the first words his eyes fell upon:

Let thy
fountain be blessed: and rejoice with the wife of thy youth.
Let her be as the loving hind and pleasant roe;
let her breasts satisfy thee at all times.

McIntyre’s eyebrows shot up.
That
wasn’t what he was expecting. Intrigued, he read on.

And be thou
ravished always with her love
.
And why wilt thou, my son, be ravished with a strange woman, and embrace the
bosom of a stranger?

He sat back and pondered the
Scripture, chastised by it. He had spent a shameful number of nights embracing
the bosoms of strangers, and it had never led to anything like what he felt for
Naomi. Perhaps this was what God was trying to tell him. There would never be
anything as passionate and pure in a man’s life as loving and honoring the one
woman whom God chooses for him.

That acknowledgement led
him, unfortunately, to face a bigger issue.

God, what is the matter with
me? Why can’t I give You my life as willingly as I gave Naomi my heart?

He shifted in his seat,
uncomfortable with the question. A man who had once preferred to rule in hell
rather than serve in heaven, McIntyre admitted that making Jesus Lord of his
life
—well,
that stirred up resistance in him.

Through his half-open door,
he could see the length of his bar. Once full of rowdy, dirty, jostling miners,
the place now was as empty and silent as Christ’s tomb. No bawdy tunes pounded
forth from the player piano. No siren call of female laughter tempted men into
sin. No shady deals simmered in his brain, and he hadn’t meted out any frontier
justice
in months. All of that was behind him. He was glad too.

But something was still
missing.

Footfalls and a soft tap at
his office door drew him back to the moment. Ian Donoghue slipped in, saluting
him with his cane.

“Good morning, lad.” The
Scotsman tugged off his Balmoral bonnet, revealing a shock of unruly silver
hair, and claimed the seat in front of McIntyre’s desk. His deep blue eyes
shone with amusement when he saw the book open before Charles. “Well, looks as
though ye’re starting your day off with the right priorities. I’m heartened to
see it.”

“It is …”
Shocking?
Unbelievable?

“Aboot time.” Ian chuckled
and laid the cane and hat across his ever-growing midsection.

McIntyre smiled at his
friend’s burr and its contrast to his own Southern drawl.

“Of course, I knew all along
ye’d come to your senses. No God,” he shook his head, “no path to Naomi.”

Almost offended, McIntyre
picked up the black leather-bound book. “Do you think I’m doing this just for
her?”

“No, no.” Ian patted the air
with his hands, defusing the tension. “That’s not what I mean at all. Having
that crazy Mexican wench blow a hole in yer shoulder would give any man his
come-to-Jesus moment.” He smiled at McIntyre like a father approving his son’s
behavior. “It was the way ye stepped in front of the bullet—for her, for love.
I knew ye had it in ye.”

McIntyre touched his aching
shoulder, the sling still in place. “Don’t remind me.”

“Aye, lad, ye’d run from God
a long time, but I saw ye slowing down. Naomi was yer—”

“Salvation.” The word leapt
out of its own accord, but it felt right. One glance at the grieving widow last
July
had
started McIntyre down this path to becoming a better man. He’d
closed the Iron Horse Saloon and Garden, retired all his lovely
Flowers
,
and made an effort to recruit legitimate businesses for Defiance. He’d even
hired a marshal. All in a vain attempt to get Naomi Miller to love him. Nothing
had convinced her Charles McIntyre might be the man for her until Rose pulled
the trigger on the .44.

He’d taken the bullet to
save Naomi, not because he was a hero or because he was a noble man, but
because he
loved
her. And for an instant, he’d seen the heart of God and
understood that no sacrifice was too great to save the ones you love.

McIntyre’s sacrifice had
finally brought Naomi around. But it had also brought his wretched past into
brutal clarity. “Ian, I have to tell her things about myself.” His friend’s
face clouded with concern. “She has to know. I suppose, in reality, I never
thought I’d actually win her. These past two weeks I’ve spent with her,”
Charles laid the Bible back down on the desk and evaluated their time together.
“She nursed me, body and soul. She’s tried to make me understand grace and
forgiveness.”

With infectious passion, she
had attempted to make him believe his sins were washed away, that he was a new
man, and the past was in the past.

Only it wasn’t.

He blinked and returned his
attention to Ian. “My past only weighs heavier upon me. She deserves more than
me, Ian, and she deserves to know who I was.”

Ian leaned forward.
“Exactly.
Was
. Ye’re not the man ye were.” He spoke with firmness and
conviction. “I saw ye changing the moment Naomi and her sisters rode into town.
I see no argument for parading all the skeletons from yer closet. They dinna
matter anymore.”

The skeletons that still had
flesh on them might matter quite a bit. “There are
some
things I have to
tell her. The passes are open, and the stages will start up again soon. I won’t
have her ambushed by the truth.”

Understanding and regret
dawned on Ian’s face, and he nodded. “Aye, I suppose ’tis not so grand to be
the cock o’ the walk now, is it?”

~~~

 

 

McIntyre fanned himself with his coal-black Stetson as he stood
waiting in the lobby of the Trinity Inn
.
Dressed in a tailored grey
frock coat, matching pants, green silk vest, and polished cavalry boots, he
could be mistaken for any Southern gentleman making a Sunday afternoon call on
his lady. The sling on his right arm and the .45 on his hip did, however,
muddle the illusion.

“Good afternoon, Mr.
McIntyre.”

Naomi’s greeting floated
down to him from the staircase landing. He followed the sound, and his voice
caught in his throat at the sight of her. Instead of the austere braid she
always wore, loose golden waves of shimmering corn silk cascaded gently around
her shoulders. The simple blue gingham dress hugged her curves and moved with
her in beautiful, enticing ways.

The welcome in her wide jade
eyes warmed him body and soul. A new experience for him. No woman had ever
affected him on such a deep emotional level.

Naomi strode over to him,
carrying a white lace shawl, her gaze unwavering and filled with determination.
She always seemed to face things without flinching—but this was a bluff,
McIntyre noted with pleasure. He could see she was nervous. Her flushed cheeks
and the delicate mist of perspiration above her lip were signs a seasoned
gambler like him couldn’t miss.

McIntyre scratched his
perfectly-trimmed beard in an attempt to hide a pleased grin. It took a lot to
unnerve Naomi Miller. She had more grit than most men he knew.

“You are a vision, Naomi.”
He motioned to her hair, desperately wishing he could run his hands through it.
“Are all of those glorious waves of spun gold just for a buggy ride?”

Giggles from the top of the
stairs drew his attention upward. Naomi’s sisters, Rebecca and Hannah, and his
former Flower, Mollie, leaned over the rail, their faces alight with curiosity.

“She had assistance, did
she, ladies?”

Naomi blushed like a new
bride. “I think they got a little carried away.”

“Hardly.” He bowed in
appreciation to the ladies above them and thickened his Georgia drawl. “I
approve”—he inched a breath closer to Naomi and swung his gaze back to
her—“wholeheartedly.”

Her eyes widened, and she
turned away. McIntyre savored the reactions she tried in vain to hide.

“She’s a little out of
practice, Mr. McIntyre,” Hannah, the younger of the sisters, teased.
Fair-haired and petite like Naomi, she was as bubbly as a mountain stream.
“This whole courting thing is new to her, but we’ll get her going in the right
direction—”

“Hannah Marie Frink!” Naomi
stomped her foot in mortification. “Not another word!”

McIntyre laughed, truly
enjoying watching his spitfire squirm. If this afternoon’s ride didn’t go well,
he’d just as soon walk off a cliff. In the meantime, he would revel in this
familial teasing.

“Don’t worry.” He slipped
his good arm around her waist and pulled her closer, savoring the feel of her.
“I believe I can provide skilled and enthusiastic instruction.”

Huffing with indignation,
Naomi pushed him off as she flushed the deep red of Colorado sandstone. “If you
cannot curb your tongue, Mr. McIntyre, you can take
them
on the buggy
ride.”

Charles cleared his throat
and took an almost imperceptible step back. The girls, well aware Naomi did not
make idle threats, scattered to their rooms. McIntyre waited till all was
silent, and then surrendered, showing Naomi the palm of his good hand.

“You should learn to take a
joke, princess. We all mean well.” Losing the battle to keep his hands off her
hair, he reached out and slowly lifted one soft, glistening wave of silky
sunshine, wishing he could take much more. “I truly appreciate their efforts.
The first time I ever saw you with your hair down, you almost left me
speechless.”

Her shoulders relaxed and
her lips softened. “The first time we served you dinner here in the hotel. I
wondered if you noticed. At the time I told myself I didn’t care.”

“You and your stubborn
pride—”

“So how do you like being
back in your saloon?”

He withdrew his hand,
watching the gold threads slip away, and gave into the change of subject. “I
hate it,” he said flatly, surprised by his honesty. “I hate every moment I am
away from you. I’m almost tempted to get shot just so you can nurse me back to
health again.” He smiled ruefully. “Almost.”

Her soft pink lips twitched
against a smile. He had a nearly overwhelming urge to take her into his arms
and kiss her until her knees buckled, but Naomi was not a soiled dove. This was
courting, something
he’d
never actually done before, and he was going to
have to figure it out—if he went through with it at all. If he did, the amount
of self-control required to keep the relationship honorable just might kill
him.

Resigned, he reached for her
hand and placed it on his heart, pulling her closer.

“I miss you.”

Had he just said that? In
the last twenty years he had made a game of saying things so lewd to a woman
they could blister the lacquer on a new barouche carriage. It was amazing how
this woman affected him. To hide his astonishment, he lightened his tone.

“I miss the rattle of dishes
and your sisters’ laughter in the kitchen.” He closed his eyes and inhaled. “I
miss the smell of roast elk and biscuits baking …” The banter was no good.
Charles McIntyre had turned into a romantic. He had to speak his heart and,
strangely, the resolve made him feel stronger.

He squeezed her hand and
said, “But it is you I miss the most. What about you? Are you glad I’m gone
from your bed?”

Naomi’s breathing hitched at
the question and something in her eyes smoldered. Her reaction lit fires in the
core of his being.

“You were a stubborn patient
… but I miss you, too.”

Her gaze traveled to his
mouth and she tilted her chin up ever so slightly—the surest invitation to a
kiss McIntyre had ever had. When he’d lain bleeding on the floor of her
kitchen, she had kissed him. And when he awoke three days later to her at his
bedside, they had kissed to seal promises for a future. Now, mesmerized by her,
he leaned down to brush that inviting mouth once more. He paused, so close he
could feel her breath. Groaning, he pulled away.

He’d made himself a promise
and meant to keep it. Disappointment and confusion warring on her face, he
stepped back, letting her hand slip from his. “I have something special to show
you.”

~~~

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