Dorothy Garlock - [Annie Lash 03]

 

 

A Time Warner Company

ALMOST EDEN
. Copyright © 1995 by Dorothy Garlock. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review.

For information address Warner Books, Hachette Book Group, USA, 237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017.

A Time Warner Company

ISBN: 978-0-7595-2276-3

A mass market edition of this book was published in 1995 by Warner Books.

First eBook Edition: May 2001

Visit our Web site at
www.HachetteBookGroupUSA.com
.

CONTENTS

CHAPTER ONE

CHAPTER TWO

CHAPTER THREE

CHAPTER FOUR

CHAPTER FIVE

CHAPTER SIX

CHAPTER SEVEN

CHAPTER EIGHT

CHAPTER NINE

CHAPTER TEN

CHAPTER ELEVEN

CHAPTER TWELVE

CHAPTER THIRTEEN

CHAPTER FOURTEEN

CHAPTER FIFTEEN

CHAPTER SIXTEEN

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

CHAPTER NINETEEN

CHAPTER TWENTY

CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE

CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO

CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE

CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR

CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE

EPILOGUE

“I WANT WHAT YOU WANT,

LIGHT. I’M YORE MATE.”

“It will be a long journey.”

“I’m not afraid.”

“We are not yet half-way to the mountains,” Light said with a deep sigh.

“I don’t care.” Maggie fitted her small body tight to his. “I belong with you.”

While his wife slept beside him, Light stared into the foggy night. The Missouri rolled on past them out of the distant land he longed to see.

He had heard the astounding stories of snow-peaked mountains, green meadows and sparkling streams from men who had returned with the Lewis and Clark expedition.

“I love you,” he whispered to the woman cuddled against him. “We will go to our mountain together. If we should die on the way, it will be together.”

 

 

“Her books are precious keepsakes.”

—Romantic Times

 

“Once again Dorothy Garlock has taken pen to leather and engraved a special place for herself in ‘western history.’ ”

—Heartland Critiques

 

 

ALSO BY DOROTHY GARLOCK

 

A G
ENTLE
G
IVING

A
NNIE
L
ASH

D
REAM
R
IVER

L
ONESOME
R
IVER

R
ESTLESS
W
IND

R
IVER OF
T
OMORROW

W
AYWARD
W
IND

W
ILD
S
WEET
W
ILDERNESS

W
IND OF
P
ROMISE

M
IDNIGHT
B
LUE

N
IGHTROSE

H
OMEPLACE

R
IBBON IN THE
S
KY

G
LORIOUS
D
AWN

T
ENDERNESS

F
OREVER
, V
ICTORIA

S
INS OF
S
UMMER

Y
ESTERYEAR

L
OVE AND
C
HERISH

 

Published by

WARNER BOOKS

 

 

for Janet and Max Lillienstein

 

 

The legend begins—

Missouri 1811

CHAPTER ONE

Jason Picket was mesmerized. His mind scarcely registered what he was seeing, but he was alert enough to grasp the possibilities this chance encounter could mean to his miserable life.

He gripped the reins, staring, staring.

She stood beside the bole of a spreading elm tree, her small perfect body blending with the background of thick grapevines that clung to the massive trunk. A brown linsey skirt swirled around the calves of her bare legs. Her face, perfect as a cameo, was framed by gorgeous blue-black hair. Even from this distance he could see her clear green eyes and red mouth. A mystique that bordered on the supernatural surrounded her.

“My luck has finally turned,” he murmured to himself.

If just looking at her stirred
his
jaded blood to the boiling point, what would she do to the bored young blades in New Orleans? Jason chuckled to think of how it would be with her on his arm. Every rich dandy within a hundred miles would be clamoring for his company. With his skill at cards he would clean their pockets.

Oh, God! Excitement made his heart knock against his ribcage and his sex swell in his tight britches until he thought he couldn’t stand it.
She would be worth a king’s ransom in New Orleans.

After a night of tossing and turning, Jason Picket had made up his mind to leave his half-brother’s homestead on the Missouri River west of St. Charles. He would leave his wife, Callie, and their two sons with Jefferson. Sucker that he was, Brother would see that they didn’t starve.

Jason had felt like a fool when he had found out that Hartley Van Buren was an agent for Aaron Burr and had been using him to prevent his half-brother from taking the evidence of Burr’s treachery to Thomas Jefferson. Plotting with General James Wilkinson, commander of the army and the governor of the Louisiana Territory, Burr had planned to take over the territory. But Hartley’s scheme had gone awry and he was dead. Now there was nothing to keep Jason here in this godforsaken wilderness.

At first he had felt he had been dragged back into this backwoods for nothing. But he realized now that it had all been worthwhile. He had found a jewel! With a little polish this girl would make him a fortune in New Orleans. He had no intention of leaving this disgusting place without her. He’d had a glimpse of her once before and learned that her name was Maggie and that she was the daughter of a homesteader struggling to eke out a living on a patch of uncleared ground.

She was alone. His for the taking.

Jason yanked the reins so suddenly that the horse reared. Forced to gentle the animal, he had to take his eyes off the girl, and when he looked again, she was gone. He cursed under his breath and angrily jerked on the right rein to punish the animal. The horse went around and around in a circle. Maggie couldn’t have gone far, he reasoned. She was probably watching him from behind a bush or tree. He smiled slyly at the thought and, deciding to try another tactic, dismounted. He walked around his frightened horse, patting him and talking softly to him, all the while scanning the edge of the woods.

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