Dalton, Tymber - Hernando Heat (Siren Publishing Ménage Amour)

Hernando Heat

 

Katie Dorchester's heart died with her husband. Worse, her ex-in-laws would kill to steal her property. Forced to leave town, she tries to build a new life in Brooksville.

 

Enter Joe Lansing and his cousin, Deputy Mason Carlisle. Joe’s had run-ins with the Dorchesters before…and suspects his fiancée paid the price. Mason lost his sister to a rich bully. The men have heartache of their own, but when they intercede on Katie’s behalf to protect her from the Dorchesters, they know she is the one for them.

 

Katie would do anything to protect Joe and Mason’s reputations in town, including giving up her own happiness with them. When the Dorchesters threaten her men, she tries to protect them the only way she knows. Now her men are in a race to save her life and their new family. Can they keep her safe in the deadly Hernando Heat?

 

Genre:
Historical, Ménage a Trois/Quatre, Western/Cowboys
Length:
44,114 words

 

HERNANDO HEAT

Tymber Dalton

MENAGE AMOUR

Siren Publishing, Inc.

www.SirenPublishing.com

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A SIREN PUBLISHING BOOK

IMPRINT: Ménage Amour

HERNANDO HEAT

Copyright © 2011 by Tymber Dalton

E-book ISBN: 1-61034-989-X

First E-book Publication: October 2011

Cover design by Jinger Heaston

All art and logo copyright © 2011 by Siren Publishing, Inc.

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED:
This literary work may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, including electronic or photographic reproduction, in whole or in part, without express written permission.

All characters and events in this book are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead is strictly coincidental.

PUBLISHER

Siren Publishing, Inc.

www.SirenPublishing.com

Letter to Readers

 

Dear Readers,

 

If you have purchased this copy of
Hernando Heat
by Tymber Dalton from BookStrand.com or its official distributors, thank you. Also, thank you for not sharing your copy of this book.

 

 

Regarding E-book Piracy

 

This book is copyrighted intellectual property. No other individual or group has resale rights, auction rights, membership rights, sharing rights, or any kind of rights to sell or to give away a copy of this book.

 

The author and the publisher work very hard to bring our paying readers high-quality reading entertainment.

 

This is Tymber Dalton’s livelihood. It’s fair and simple. Please respect Ms. Dalton’s right to earn a living from her work.

 

Amanda Hilton, Publisher

www.SirenPublishing.com

www.BookStrand.com

DEDICATION

For Hubby and Mr. B. Thank You both for keeping me sane. :)

 
HERNANDO HEAT

TYMBER DALTON

Copyright © 2011

Chapter One

Sweat trickled down her back under her heavy black dress. The afternoon felt oppressively hot and humid for late April, even in Florida.

Through her filmy black veil, she stared at the gravestone the cemetery had just installed.

Paul William Dorchester - Beloved Husband

Born: March 13, 1857 - Died: April 3, 1889

Only three weeks ago.

She stiffened her spine as she heard footsteps approach, crunching in the dry grass behind her. She didn’t need to look to know who they belonged to. He’d been hounding her ever since Paul’s death.

“Katherine, we need to talk.”

Her eyes never wavered from her husband’s grave. “We have nothing to talk about, Mr. Dorchester.”

“Edward has already volunteered to—”

“To what?” She turned. “To
marry
me? I’m sorry, but I married Paul for love. I refuse to marry your other son just for your own nefarious purposes.” She started past him, but he grabbed her arm.

“Woman, you
will
listen to me!”

“Take your hands off me!”

He let go as his expression darkened. “That property must stay in the family.”

“I
am
family, not that you ever treated me as such. Or Paul, for that matter. He might as well have been a perfect stranger to you despite your blood in his veins.”

She took a step forward, and surprisingly, he stepped back. She continued her tirade. “My husband willed that property to me. You cut him out of the family, not to mention your business, if you’ll recall. As far as I’m concerned, you have no claim on that property. We have nothing else to discuss, Mr. Dorchester. Good day.” She tried to calm her racing heart as she stormed through the cemetery, dry grass and leaves crackling underfoot, her long skirts brushing taller weeds as she passed.

Her poor Paul. She choked back a sob. It still hurt too badly to contemplate. Too fresh, too raw. They should have had a long and happy life together.

The senior Edward Dorchester bellowed from behind her. “Katherine! Do not turn your back on me, woman. This is not finished!”

She ignored him and prayed her tears didn’t start until she made it to her buggy. Once she gathered her skirts and climbed in, she risked a glance toward the man who used to be her father-in-law. Despite the heat, the angry glare on his face chilled her soul. She released the brake and snapped the reins, urging her horse down the dusty road at a gallop.

* * * *

Ross Steger wasn’t just Paul’s best friend—he was also their attorney. One week after Katherine’s confrontation with the senior Dorchester in the cemetery, she sat in front of Ross’ desk and watched him thumb through her paperwork. “Katie, it’s all cut and dry. You own the property, not Edward Dorchester, Senior or Junior.”

“Then I can do whatever I want with it?”

He nodded as he sat back. “Absolutely. It’s yours free and clear, no matter what those two want or think.” He rubbed his forehead. “Although I suspect I know what they want with it, if I know them.”

She stared out the window for a moment as she composed her thoughts. Dade City was growing, but she didn’t want to deal with constant memories that would torment her here. She also didn’t want to live in such close proximity to Dorchester Junior. Senior usually lived in Tampa, but ever since Paul died, Senior had been staying with his son. No doubt he wouldn’t leave anytime soon.

Likely not until he had his hands on her property.

She’d heard that Brooksville, over in Hernando county and only a few miles to the northwest of Dade City, held good opportunities. A growing, prosperous little town with successful sawmill and mining operations, and even farther from the Dorchesters.

“Can you find me a tenant for the property?” she quietly asked.

“Absolutely. Carlton Gentry has already expressed an interest in it.”

She nodded. “Very well then. How much will you charge me to manage it? I also want you to find me a place in Brooksville.”

“Brooksville? Why on earth there? What’s wrong with here? There are plenty of rooming houses here in town that would be perfect for you if the farm is too much for you.”

“I have to support myself. I can’t work the property alone, nor do I have the heart to do so. I can be a seamstress and support myself. There are already three seamstresses here in Dade City. It would be silly to set up shop here.”

“But Paul left you well off. You don’t need to work.”

“I want to work. I’ll have taxes to pay on the property. Not to mention living expenses. I cannot afford to live like some idle woman and simply wither away. Working will keep my mind occupied.”

She didn’t want to speak it aloud, but working would also ensure she could afford to keep her distance from the Dorchester family and not have to move back to Dade City. She knew she could afford to hire a man or two to help her with the property, but what difference would it make staying and torturing herself? Or worse, staying and being tortured by the Dorchesters.

Ross sighed. “I have a friend who lives over in Brooksville. Edgar Smith and his wife. He owns the local feed store. I’m sure he can help me find a suitable place for you.”

“Good. I wish to accomplish this as soon as possible.”

“No talking you into staying? I should think it would be hard to leave your home.”

She shook her head. “I want a fresh start. I’ve heard they don’t have a professional seamstress in Brooksville.” She’d learned the craft from her father, a tailor who’d plied his trade in New York City before relocating his family to Tampa, where she was born. She met Paul in Tampa when he traveled there on business and needed a jacket seam mended.

It had been love at first sight. Her handsome Paul, with his blue eyes and auburn hair, looking—and acting—nothing like his father and older brother, both pig-faced with muddy brown eyes and black hair.

And attitudes to match their porcine looks.

Paul’s mother had died while trying to give birth to a third child, a little boy who also died, when Paul was ten.

She met Ross’ steady gaze. “I don’t want to feel like I’m constantly under siege. You know as well as I do what those two Dorchester men are like. I need to make a new life for myself.” She choked back her tears. “Paul would want me to do this. I know it. He told me before he died that he wanted me to be happy.”

* * * *

It was with a sigh of relief she returned home and saw no signs of Edward Dorchester, Junior or Senior. She hated her former brother-in-law with a passion only slightly less than the disgust she held for his father. They had treated her husband in a miserable way, cutting Paul off when he turned eighteen because he wouldn’t turn the property over to them when it came to him. If it hadn’t been for Paul’s mother willing him the property, which had been in her family, he would have been destitute.

Instead, he made a living for himself, and later Katie. He was six years older than her, and their five years together had been very happy, even if unfortunately childless.

She suppressed that sad pang. If she had a child to take care of now, she would be especially concerned. As it was, she had only herself to worry for. Even without the money Paul left her, not to mention income from their property, she could still work and provide for herself.

The next morning, Ross Steger brought Carlton Gentry by to talk with her and finalize the lease. With the rent he would pay for using the land for his cattle for the next five years, she could breathe easier that she wouldn’t lose it to unpaid taxes.

Two days later, Edward Dorchester Senior returned to “talk” to her again.

She ran him off the property by putting two loads of rock salt in his backside from Paul’s double-barreled shotgun. Fortunately, Ross Steger was there to witness Dorchester’s threats of bodily harm. When Dorchester returned an hour later with a deputy, Ross stood up for her and told the deputy Dorchester had threatened her, and that he was lucky she’d only used rock salt and not buckshot.

When they left, Ross shook his head as he watched their dust trail head down the road. “When are you leaving, Katie?”

“Tomorrow. I’ve got a wagon coming. I want to be out of here as soon as possible.” She smiled. “Do you have a place for me yet, or should I pack a tent with everything else?”

“Not yet, but you can stay with Edgar’s family while we get you settled. They already extended the invitation. Let’s get you over there and we can find you a permanent place. I’ll get my son to come with us. I have a feeling the Dorchesters aren’t going to stop until they get their hands on this property.”

She shouldered the shotgun. “If he or Junior sets foot on my property again, next time it’ll be a load of buckshot in their faces, and not rock salt in their hind ends.”

* * * *

She fended off two more visits from her former father-in-law in the month she lived at the Smiths’ home before she settled into a small shop in downtown Brooksville, right in the center of town. With a dry goods store and the fire brigade on either side, and two churches across the street, it quickly helped her build a good reputation. She became friends with several women in town who helped bring her business. After a while, she came to call it home.

She made her home in the shop’s back room, surrounded by mementoes of her beloved Paul.

Every night she fought the urge to cry herself to sleep from sheer loneliness. She stared at Paul’s picture one night as she tried to go to sleep.

“You said you wanted me to be happy,” she whispered, “but I’m afraid I don’t know how without you.”

With the sound of crickets chirping outside, she rolled over and prayed for the darkness to take her.

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