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Sin in Sarah’s Creek
By Sandra Brown Rarey
After her husband dies, Jenny Bouchard finds herself alone on a decrepit farm on a prairie, fighting poverty, drought and marriage proposals from unsavory suitors. Pursued by the most powerful and dangerous man in Sarah‘s Creek, she seeks safety and passion in the arms of a stranger who claims to own her husband’s legacy.
Matthew Lerner is trying to rebuild his life in Kentucky after the Civil War. The death of his friend, Jacques Bouchard, leaves him owning property in Nebraska. Intending to claim the livestock, sell the property and head back to Kentucky, he instead falls in love with Jacques’ prickly-tempered widow. He almost loses his life protecting her from killers greedy for the valuable property they think she still owns.
SIN IN SARAH'S CREEK
Jenny Bouchard shivered beneath her widow’s weeds. The clothes were heavy, black and scratchy as hell--which was where she was wishing her husband at this very moment.
The moon had cast a blue glimmer across her land. The scent of newly-blossomed milkweed and the chirring of cicadas and crickets filled the evening. A coyote yelped and howled, its horrible sounds were like the war cries of a wild savage.
She went back inside her tiny cabin and lit a candle, taking comfort in the dim glow and flickering shadows. She undressed and slipped into a worn cotton shift. Certain God would not approve, Jenny tried to will away the anger she felt towards Jacques for dying and leaving her alone in this unforgiving land. He may have been a disinterested husband but for three years he’d taken care of her and given her a home of her own. How foolish she’d been to take that for granted.
And now he’d gone to Glory Land leaving her with a harvest she couldn’t bring in alone and a herd of cattle about to be repossessed. Sorrow nudged aside her resentment. Grief for a man she’d lived with but never loved--a man who had died too young--mingled with grief for the death of her dreams. She should have realized years ago, Providence would never smile on her.
Shadows danced on the cabin walls, making Jenny think of the music Jacques had sometimes played on his harmonica. She carried the candle over to his dresser and, for the first time since his demise, opened the top drawer. How strange to think whatever had been his now belonged to her.
Her seeking hand fell on the smooth wood of Jacques’ harmonica. She set the candle down and turned the mouth organ over and over in her palm, trying to figure out how on earth he had made it sing so sweetly. She blew a puff of air into the holes along its side and jumped at the wail she made. Her cat, Minerva, arched and bristled then scampered under the bed.
Jenny huffed and blew and swiped the instrument across her mouth until her cheeks started to ache and her lips turned raw. She whirled and twirled in awkward abandon, trying to make her rhythm match the cadence of the flicking candlelight.
When her mouth grew tired she tossed the harmonica on her bed and stood with her arms over her head, swaying to the sound of her own singing. Something inside her chest built and then burst. Her head fell back. She crossed her arms over her chest in an effort to hold herself together.
The tears on the woman’s cheeks glistened in the weak light and were evident to the man who stood outside watching her through the window.
Her graceful moves, the thing she wore, stirred up all kinds of feelings Matthew had no business having. He hadn’t intended to watch her but the music--if you could call it that--had drawn his attention. When the woman started to cry he dropped his gaze. He figured it wasn’t right, spying on her like this, anyway.
He re-checked a well-creased map by the light of a match and then folded it and shoved it in his pocket. This couldn’t be the Bouchard ranch. There was nothing here but a rough cabin with a few ramshackle outhouses and a dozen or so acres of poor crops. Flicking his cigarette away, he cursed the luck that made him owner of Jacques Bouchard’s ranch, in Nebraska of all places--the middle of nowhere.
He carefully made his way back to where his men had set up camp. He had been traveling for weeks. His body ached for a soft bed. As he rode through a carpet of prairie grass that moved and hissed in the moonlight, visions of the woman in the cabin drifted through his mind.
When she’d dropped that damned mouth organ and started singing, desire was pushed aside by a longing for something he couldn’t name.
Without a shred of guilt, he knew he’d think about her tonight. He could almost feel his fingers tangle in that fiery hair. Would her pale skin be as soft as it looked? Maybe thoughts of her would follow him into sleep and keep the usual nightmares away.
Copyright January, 2017 by Sandra Brown Rarey
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