"Five foot nothing and eyes of green has this gunslinger looking for mercy"
Reviewed by Sandra Wurman
Posted August 27, 2008
Lily Palmer Carrington is bright, ambitious and comes
packing heat. When her company takes over a lumber mill she
discovers an unexpected bonus -- the location of the
gunslinger who murdered her father. Of course being the
tenacious businesswoman that she is, Lily is up to the task
of saving the mill and exacting revenge against the criminal
who destroyed her family, even though he is technically
employed as the sheriff at the mill.
Juniper, June, Barns realizes immediately that Lily is the
daughter of big Red Palmer a bounty hunter that challenged
him to a draw many years before. June has been running from
his reputation for years and now it appears that once again
his past has caught up. But before Lily can avenge her
parent's deaths, events at the mill have put her in grave
danger and in the protective care of none other than Sheriff
Barns. In order to protect Lily he must first earn her trust
which truly seems unattainable. But as is often the case
people are not usually what they seem and both Lily and June
start to develop a rather unbelievable relationship as they
realize how life shaped their destiny.
Both work to ignore the sparks between them but sometimes
love just happens even if there is no future. Both Lily and
June are in for the fight of their lives and they must
depend on each other to survive. But, how can you earn the
trust of someone's whose life you destroyed? And how can you
believe in someone whose very being depends on his ability
to kill? June and Lily learn that each has had to be someone
they don't like in order to survive. Hopefully they will be
given a chance to change. Maybe once that happens there is a
future for the two of them. Nothing worthwhile comes easily
but these two people are used to working hard and this may
be the most important fight of their lives.
I admit it; I am an unabashed fan of Stacey Kayne. I loved
her Maverick books and couldn't wait for this book to be
published. True to her style this books characters are
feisty, brave and yet not afraid to show their
vulnerabilities. Even the most macho guy has a tender side
and ladies don't always have to be gentle. This book takes
us out of the range and into the lives of those working the
early logging mills where living conditions were difficult
and families grew in the shadows of the mills. Kayne doesn't
take shortcuts with the solutions for these families.
Instead she gives us a glimpse of what the future could hold
with a little bit of hope and lots of gumption. Lily and
June are sure to win a spot in your heart.
SHE VOWS TO KILL HIM...
Feisty Lily Carrington wants revenge for the murder of her
finally tracked down the killer-and she's going to make him
HE'LL RISK EVERYTHING TO SAVE HER.
Juniper Barns has done everything he can to escape his
violent past. He now
protects the lives of those in need. But he can't outrun
his destiny any
longer. It's time to stand and fight. Only, this time his
opponent is a
beautiful woman seeking vengeance, but who's in danger from
a killer on the
loose-and losing her heart to the one man she's forbidden
ExcerptExcerpt â From Chapter Two
1883 â Pine Ridge Lumber Camp
Someone had smuggled a woman into camp.
Juniper Barns surveyed the growing circle of men as he
tethered his horse outside the cabin serving as the Pine
Ridge jailhouse. Only two things drew such a crowd. There
wasnât enough rooting and shouting going on for it to be a
Cursing beneath his breath, he started toward what could
well turn into a riot. He didnât get paid enough for this
job. Hell, just like the rest of the camp, he hadnât been
paid in nearly two months. He needed to get down the
mountain and check on Johnâs widow. His friendâs death was
the most recent of fatalities in a lumber camp sliding
downhill at an alarming pace.
âAfternoon, Sheriff,â one of the men said as Juniper nudged
his way past him and into a strum of murmuring voices.
âWhatâs going on?â he asked, working through the crowd of
men. Just as heâd suspected, he spotted pale skin and
colorful ruffles through the shifting veil of bodies. Women
werenât allowed up at the Pine Ridge camp for one obvious
reasonâthey tended to bring out the worst in lonely, rowdy
timbermen. To his immediate alarm, she seemed to already be
in a horizontal position.
He shoved his way through, then drew to a hard stop.
What the hell?
A pretty lady lay unconscious on a spot of open ground. The
womanâs peaceful expression and fancy prim attire shocked
him far more than any display of indecency. The men
surrounding her seemed just as stunned, none of them daring
to go within a foot of her.
Juniper knelt beside her and pressed his fingers to her
slender neck where her pulse beat strong and steady. A sigh
of relief broke from his chest.
She sure didnât look like a prostitute or a destitute wife
whoâd come up here to find out why her husband hadnât
brought home his much-needed earnings. Her green velvet
waistcoat, matching leather gloves and colorful fancy skirt
had a look of wealth about them. What was she doing way up
âWhat happened?â he demanded, glaring up at the others.
âI didnât mean to hit her, Sheriff.â Slim, one of the log
drivers, stepped forward. He twisted his hat in his hands,
his eyes wide with fear as he stared at the woman. âI was
moving a load.â
âShe ainât dead, is she, Sheriff?â someone shouted.
âNo,â he said, sliding his fingers into reddish blond hair,
knocking out hairpins as his fingers moved through the
silken mass, searching her scalp for damage. He didnât feel
any fractures. A good-sized lump protruded on the right
side of her head.
âWhereâd she come from?â he asked, glancing around the
âI looked âround and there she was,â said Slim. âI shouted
a warning, and she turned straight into the log.â He
clucked his tongue. âKnocked her right out.â
Dainty as she was, he was afraid to move her, unsure if the
blow had jarred her spine.
âI want to know what sheâs doing here,â he shouted. âWho
does she belong to?â
Murmurs went through the crowd, every man looking to
âNo one was with her?â he said to Slim.
âNot so far as I could see, but I wasnât lookinâ beyond the
path of that log.â
She moaned, and the group fell silent. The circle around
Juniper drew tighter as the men leaned in.
âMiss?â Juniper brushed a finger across her petal-soft
cheek. Long auburn lashes fluttered. She opened her eyes.
The smallest rim of green lined the dilated centers.
She shifted, pushing her elbows up beneath her as she
started to sit up. Long shiny hair tumbled to her shoulders
in a shimmer of russet and gold. âI...â She winced, her
eyes pinching shut. âMy...â
Juniper quickly slid his hand beneath her head as she
dropped back down.
She blinked up at him. Her lips tipped with a smile.
Juniperâs mouth went dry. She sure was pretty.
âOh my,â she said, sounding breathless.
âYouâve taken a swift hit to the head.â
âI must have.â Her eyelids drooped.
âCan you tell me your name?â
Lily. What was this sweet, delicate flower doing way up
here? Her weight relaxed against his palm.
âLily? Can you hear me? Lily?â
She didnât stir.
Definitely a concussion. Sheâd moved enough to assure him
nothing was broken. Needing to get her out of the sun and
away from all the onlookers, he slid his arms beneath her
shoulders and the bulk of her skirt. As he straightened,
something solid jabbed against his ribs. He shifted her
against him, firming his hold on her, and was pretty damn
sure he felt the outline of a revolver packed into the
green and violet folds of her skirt.
At least she had enough sense to travel armed.
He glanced up at the crowd of woodsmen. âAnyone willing to
The eager expressions of the men told him that was about
the stupidest question he could have asked.
âI will!â shouted one.
âIâll take her off your hands, sheriff,â called another.
He shook his head and carried her toward his office.
Whatever her reasons for coming up here, riling the
interest of a bunch of salivating lumberjacks was only
going to get her into more trouble than she could handle.
âFind Marty and GĂźnter,â he said to no one in
particular. âTell them to high-tale it to my office.â
âYou arresting her?â someone shouted after him.
âI sure am! Sheâs breaking Pine Ridge law by being here.
When I find out whoâs responsible for bringing her up here,
heâll be packing his gear.â
âJuniper?â His deputy hurried towards him. âShe hurt?â
GĂźnter rushed ahead to open the door of the sheriffâs
âMost likely a concussion,â he said, hoping that was the
worst of her injuries. He carried her inside and carefully
stepped into one of the two jail cells.
âWho is she?â
âHell if I know. Go see if you can find Marty,â he said,
placing her on a fairly clean cot. âIâd feel better if he
had a look at her head before we send her down the
As the door shut behind his deputy, Juniper slid his hand
into Lilyâs skirt pocket. Just as heâd suspected, his
fingers closed over a gun. Expecting a dainty Derringer or
stylish Colt, the .44 Smith & Wesson surprise him. A right
decent weapon by his standards, and any man whose life
depended on speed and accuracy. The plain wood grip showed
signs of heavy use, some of the varnish having worn
through. He opened the cylinder, noting the empty first
chamber and clean barrel. To his relief, the use hadnât
He glanced again at the woman. She seemed far too delicate
to be carrying such a thing. Not that he blamed her for
packing iron in such rough country, but why in creation
would she have come all the way up here with nothing but a
hard-used pistol in her pocket?
Leaving her in the cell, he tugged off his hat and tossed
the brown Stetson onto his desk. He set the ladyâs revolver
on a stack of reports. Crouching before the cabinet that
held a pitcher and washbasin, he took out a clean towel.
After pouring some water into the white basin, he dunked in
the cloth, wrung it out, and went back to Lily.
Such a tiny little thing, he thought as he knelt beside
her. Not much over five feet, and heâd bet ten pounds of
her slight weight was sheer clothing, her full skirt
fluffed up by a stack of petticoats. He laid the cool wet
cloth over the knot hidden beneath her hair and stepped
She seemed comfortable enough, though her fitted jacket did
look rather constrictive. He wondered if he should open the
high collar. He reached for the pearl buttons, then decided
âWake up, pretty lady.â
GĂźnter stomped into the cabin. âMarty went up to check a
bad-tempered ox. I sent a man after him.â
Juniper released a sigh of disappointment. âAll right. As
soon as he gets back, send him over.â
âDa.â GĂźnter poked his head inside the jail cell, taking a
closer look at Lily. âPretty. Yeah?â
âYeah. A regular sleeping beauty. Go on and get some chow
before Cook closes the kitchen.â
GĂźnter didnât hesitate. Once Cook locked his doors thereâd
be no chance at getting a hot meal. âIâll bring you a
Juniper wasnât sure when they expected him to eat--heâd
hardly slept in a week. Between gun-toting damsels,
renegade lumberjacks, crazed oxen, and L.P. Carringtonâs
latest notice starting riots all over this mountain, he had
more trouble than he could handle. The sheriffâs office had
somehow become the headquarters for company complaints.
Much more of this and heâd be making a trip to Frisco for a
little one-on-one with L.P. Carrington. The man clearly had
more money than smarts.
Work had been rendered, timber cut and hauled off the
mountain. These men needed their wages, not letters asking
for patience while some overstuff suit polished his coins.
He leaned down and stroked a few strands of reddish blond
hair away from Lilyâs face. Her long auburn lashes rested
peacefully against her fair skin.
He had a hunch he wasnât the only one on the warpath. This
wouldnât be the first time a scorned lover had shown up at
lumber camp with a pistol in her pocket. If that was the
case, one of their lumberjacks had been a right lucky man.
* * *
Lily woke with a dull headache.
She didnât bother to open her eyes, not wanting to increase
the throbbing in her skull. She needed hot chocolate.
Reaching out, she blindly searched for the servant bell on
her night table, yet the table eluded her.
âWhoever Emily is,â said a low, smooth voice, âitâs fair to
say she ainât cominâ.â
Lily bolted upright. She barely caught a glimpse of the man
moving toward her before her brain seemed to slug forward,
pounding stars into her eyes.
She swayed. âOh my goodness.â
âEasy, now.â Warm hands closed over her shoulders and eased
her back down. âYou took a swift blow to the head.â
Eyes of the palest blue gazed down at her. She had a vague
recollection of peering up into those cerulean depths once
âHowâs the eyesight?â he asked.
Her gaze moved over his tanned features, sharp jaw line and
wavy blond hair with startling clarity. He held his hand
up, two of his long fingers creating a V.
âHow many fingers do you see?â
âTwo,â she said, smiling despite her headache. She sat up,
slowly this time, and leaned back against the wall.
His swift smile didnât help her wooziness. The handsome
stranger eased back. Light glinted off the silver star
pinned to his dark leather vest.
The sheriff. She glanced past him and noticed the metal
âAm I in jail?â
Warm throaty laugher drew her gaze back to sparkling blue
eyes. Flutters erupted low in her belly. She definitely
remembered him, and was quite certain sheâd found him just
as striking the first time sheâd looked into those sky-blue
eyes. A sudden heat flooded her face, and Lily averted
âYouâre getting some color back in your cheeks,â he said,
which only increased the heat flaring into her face.
Good gracious. Lily Carrington did not swoon over men!
Glancing back at the sheriff, she now knew why. Lily
Carrington had never been in the presence of a man like the
sheriff of Pine Ridge.
He took a step back, his broad shoulders seeming to block
out the rest of the world as he leaned against the metal
doorframe. He crossed his law-enforcing arms over a strong
chest, creating a formidable barrier between her and the
open doorway of the cell.
âMind telling me what youâre doing up here, Lily?â
Her eyes surged wide. How did he know her name?
âDonât remember telling me your name?â
âNo,â she said, lightly touching the tender spot on the
side of her head. âIâm not even sure how I ended up in
Golden eyebrows pinched inward, a look of concern narrowing
his eyes. âDo you know where youâre at?â
âThe lumber camp at Pine Ridge.â
He smiled at her answer. The reaction caused an alarming
affect on her pulse.
âYes, maâam. How many women do you reckon we have here at
the Pine Ridge lumber camp?â
âI havenât a clue.â
âNone. Do you know why, Lily?â
âSame reason this logging camp has to employ its own
sheriff. Itâs not safe. I have enough work cut out for me
without our rowdy crews fighting over a woman.â
She certainly wasnât a woman willing to be fought
over! âThis is all a terrible misunderstanding. Iâve come
to Pine Ridge on business.â
âI am aware.â The corners of his mouth slid upward again,
and Lily was quite certain sheâd never known a more
handsome man with such a charming disposition. âOr was that
pistol in your pocket purely for protection?â
Her mouth dropped open. Her hand slid to her empty skirt
âItâs on my desk.â
Her gaze darted to the side. Her fatherâs gun sat atop a
stack of papers on the sheriffâs desk.
âIf that revolver wasnât so polished, Iâd worry about the
Lily groaned and slumped back onto the cot.
âLily, why donât you tell me what this is all about?â
She stared into his gentle blue eyes and wondered if he
used such charm to interrogate all his prisoners.
âI canât cut you loose in this lumber camp, but if you tell
me whatâs going on, maybe I can help.â
Yes, perhaps he could. âIâm--â
He glanced over his shoulder as Davy burst in through the
âWhat is it, Davy?â
âBarns?â said Lily.
The sheriff looked back at her, and Lily realized sheâd
spoken the name aloud.
âThatâs right,â he said. âJuniper Barns.â
Lily couldnât draw her next breath. His narrowing blue eyes
suggested her expression revealed her shock.
He canât be.
âWell, heck. You already found her,â Davy said before
stepping back outside.
Sheriff Barns didnât take his eyes off her, eyes that
didnât seem quite so warm and gentle as a moment
ago. âHeard of me, have you?â
He wasnât much older than her, far too young. Sheâd been
only twelve years of age when her father was killed, nearly
thirteen years ago.
âDoes your father work up here, Sheriff Barns?â
âNo, maâam. Iâve got no blood kin left to speak of. My
father died in Missouri nearly fourteen years ago.â
His emphasis on Missouri throbbed through her mind as
chills raced across her skin. Her gaze dropped to the
holster strapped to his lean hips, the pearl grip of one of
his guns visible beneath his vest.
Gunned him down with those pearl-handled six-shooters.
Oh God. She glanced up and fear shivered through her. Sheâd
come to Pine Ridge to kill the sheriff.
And he knew it.
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