With Valentine’s Day approaching, love and romance are in the air (and the taste of chocolates are on the tips of many tongues). I invite you to get to know Jessie Kane, my heroine from, Be Mine, Valentine.
I grew up on a farm in Virginia. It was just Ma and Pa and me working hard from sun up ‘til sun down. The list of chores never seemed to end, but I’m not complaining. Ma and Pa were the best parents; kind, loving, strict when there was need. I lost them to fever before the start of the war between the north and the south. Even though the farm was small, the chores were too many for one person. I sold the land and moved to Chicago where I took an unusual job for a woman―a private investigator specializing in finding runaways. My first assignment I spent a good amount of time honing my skills. Through trial and error, and my own stubbornness, I became adept at tracking those I was hired to find and escorting them home, except for the last girl. Two days before I caught up to her, she was killed in an accident. I mourned as if she were my own daughter, then forced myself back into the saddle to locate the Cantrell’s grown son.
Craig Cantrell proved difficult. He’d changed his name to Gage, fell in with a band of outlaws, and led me on a long chase across the southern territories. Every time I thought I’d caught up to him, he’d vacated his hideaway a day or two before. Sometimes, even a week. Worse, Gage’s fiancée caught up to me and insisted she accompany me in my search. She’s a thorn in my side, too delicate for the trail, but I finally convinced her to hole up in Austin while I follow another lead. A source in Tucson is certain Gage is in Revolving Point, Texas. I have my doubts. The woman in Tucson is unreliable, and too selfish for her own good… and correct in her claim!
Gage Cantrell is the first person to greet me when I arrive in the notorious town along the Rio Grande. Cocky, temperamental, evasive; it’s going to take some careful wrangling to corner him and convince him he can safely return to Chicago. But that’s the least of my worries. For a woman who has never been interested in love and settling down, the eatery manager has set my heart to thumping. And my pulse to pounding. Handsome and quiet, with a warm heart and sorrowful eyes that have captured my soul, this Valentine’s Day, Tom Porter will ask me to be his Valentine. And his wife.
Quietly moving across the floor, he nudged the door open to find Jessie wearing her night clothes and sitting in a chair before the hearth, her blonde hair hanging loose down her back. She cradled a cup in her lap, caressed the rim while staring at the low-burning fire. He filled a cup and joined her.
“Can’t sleep,” he asked.
“Oh,” she startled, and arched her neck toward him. “I didn’t hear you.”
“I didn’t mean to frighten you.” He nodded toward the hearth. “May I join you?”
Her guarded gaze traveled the length of him. “Al-all right.” She shifted her attention back to the crackling wood.
He pulled a chair beside her and sat, took a long drink of the hot brew. “Are you up because you’re worried about the squatter?”
“No. The sheriff and the deputies will find him.” She kept her gaze on the flame. “They won’t allow harm to come to their wives and children.”
“Reckon you’re right about that.” He took another long swallow to settle the unease snaking through his gut. He had plenty to say to her, and hoped the words came out right.
“Why are you awake?” she asked.
“I’ve got a lot on my mind.”
“Most people do.” She leaned forward, pulled a log from a basket beside the hearth and added it to the fire. Sat back in her chair.
“Jessie,” he started, only to pause and take a deep breath. He let it out slow, prayed his gumption wouldn’t desert him. “I apologize for what I said to you earlier. You’re more than a waitress to me. You’re someone I care about very much.”
She sniffled and met his gaze. Except for the moisture clinging to her eyes, her expression was void of feeling. “So you’ve often said.” She cocked her head. “Are you willing to do something about that?”
He swallowed hard. “If you’re referring to marriage, than I’m sorry, but the answer is no. I can’t marry you.” He touched her arm. “But I can be your friend.” And love you with everything I am. “Someone you can depend upon for anything.”
“I have friends, Tom,” she said, stonily. “I want more than that.”
Be Mine, Valentine is available at Amazon for .99cents.
****Jessie Kane was first introduced in Debra's Bandit, which can be found here: www.amazon.com/dp/B0095IG390