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up and taught her to dream in little things, believe
in big things and reach for you on the coldest and
darkest of nights. Then you abandoned her and
you never came home.
 I m home now!
 You re home? she chuckled, and it was more
like a sickening bellow than a hearty laugh.
 You re not home, Preston. You re here, but you ll
never go home now. You have a wife with new
responsibilities and Carly? She s made her own
way. She has friends, a few men that actually love
her, whether any of  em would make her a wife or
not, I don t know.
Preston swallowed hard.  What do you mean
she has men who love her?
 You have to ask? She pointed down the
hallway.  I have three fellows in three rooms here,
resting today. They re riding back out to Carly s
place in a few hours. They came here last night to
get a good night s sleep and didn t touch one of
my girls. Not one of them. The three of them came
up with the lamest excuses ever told. Big Dick
62
Branded by Love
Wilcox even claimed his cock shrunk and he
couldn t get a hard-on if someone gave him free
pussy. So we offered and they all declined.
 And you think Carly is the reason your
whores didn t get paid?
 I don t think, Preston. I d bet you a month of
free ones with every girl in the house, gambling
with their bodies and mine just to prove a point.
Preston slapped his hands together.  I m gonna
have a talk with Wilcox.
 You ain t doing your talking here, Preston. Go
home to your woman. Take care of her. Treat her
right nice and maybe you ll keep her.
 I don t need whores telling me how to treat a
woman.
 Oh, she chirped.  I see Carly has already told
you the same thing, huh?
 Rose, he began.  How do I get her back?
 You can t right now, Preston. Maybe you
never will.
A loud blast of gunfire sounded off in the
middle of the street and Preston quickly shut and
locked Rose s door.  What the hell? she ran to the
window and he quickly pushed her to the side as
he looked out in the street.
 I don t see anyone except the fellow who runs
the telegraph office, Preston said.
 Dean? Rose asked, leaping for the window
and shoving it up with both hands.  Dean! What s
63
Destiny Blaine
going on down there?
 Rose! he exclaimed.  I have some horrible
news. Mr. and Mrs. Barkley were in Sacramento
and their stagecoach was robbed. Telegraph just
came in and confirmed it. The Barkleys were shot
and killed by outlaws.
Rose put her hand over her mouth and
slumped to the bed.  Oh my, she said.  How
awful. Oh, Preston! She started to cry, burying
her face in her palms.  Those poor, poor folks.
Preston took a deep, tortured breath.  Yeah,
those nice people ain t had a moment s peace since
their son passed, have they?
Rose looked up and shook her head. After a
long, uncomfortable silence, she said,  Robert
Barkley went missing. No one ever confirmed he
died, Preston.
Preston didn t make a habit out of lying to
Rose. In the good old days, he spent a lot of time
in her bed and he still considered her a close
friend, even if she often took Carly s side of things
more than his own.
 Preston, you look at me and tell me that boy
ain t dead, she said.
 He wasn t a boy, Rose.
 Last time I saw him, he was with you and
Carly, she pointed out.  No one ever saw him
after that and Carly never breathed a word about
him even riding out with the two of you.
64
Branded by Love
 I ain t saying he s dead for sure, but he must
be if no one has seen him around. News traveled
all the way to Dodge City, too. Speculation is he
was killed by Indians since his mom and dad used
to take up with them about like Carly is now.
 I doubt Mr. and Mrs. Barkley took Spotted
Cloud with them to bed.
Preston stared off into space and then said,
 You shoulda seen the way those two went at each
other.
 You spied on them?
 Damn right.
* * * *
Rose had about all she could stomach of Preston.
He had no right doing Carly the way he d done
her and then riding back in with a woman at his
side, a baby on the way, and stiff arrogance in his
buckskins. He was a son-of-a-bitch, that s what he
was and he ought to be ashamed of himself.
 Don t look at me like I m some kind of
outlaw.
 Criminals come and go, Preston. No, you re
much lower than a common thug. I m just trying
to find a way to put a name on it, figure out what
it is that you really are, you know?
 How about Preston Evans, the only man who
has any business loving Carly Corbaine Evans.
65
Destiny Blaine
 What the hell is wrong with you? she
screamed before slapping her hand across his gut.
 Have you forgotten how you treated her?
Preston took a deep breath.  I d appreciate it if
you didn t smack me again.
 Oh for the love of God, Preston, you need
help. You need some serious help. A normal man
doesn t spy on two lovers going at it. Hell, I m a
working whore and don t allow it unless I know
about it and then I charge extra for it. What were
you doing peeking in Carly s window?
 Trying to figure out what she sees in the
profession.
 From what she s said about Spotted Cloud, I
imagine you got your eyes full, Rose said,
smiling.  Probably did you some good.
 In case you ve forgotten, woman, I have plenty
of package tucked away in these breeches.
 I wouldn t know or remember, Preston. It s
been a long time ago and thank God, I never got in
the thick of things with you like Carly did. I guess
I would ve been plumb tempted to blow your
pecker to kingdom come.
 You should ve seen them, he moved the
conversation back to the starting point.  She [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]




 

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