The Rose of the Frontier (Preview)

Chapter One

Rose Dutton flicked her hair back over her shoulders and straightened up from scattering hay for the cattle.

“I think we need a drink, Dad,” she said. “This is hot work. I’ll get us both a coffee.”

She hurried off to the house and her dad sat down on a log and mopped his brow with his bandana. When she returned, he took the coffee and she sat on the log beside him.

“Some folk seem to get rich from ranching. I wish I knew how,” Alan Dutton remarked.

“You would have made a better living as a doctor,” Rose answered. “I know. I know. The ranch was a dream of Mom’s, but it’s hard work and the land is not good pasture.”

He reached out and patted her arm. “You’re a wonderful help to me, Rose. I do appreciate it. We’ll make it in the end.”

“You could do some medicine and leave Cody and me to run the place. That way, at least you would have some money coming in—and you’re so good at being a doctor.”

“Cody’s a good foreman and I know he makes the place work. I’ll keep on trying for now.”

Rose sighed, slid to the ground, and leaned against the log. Her hands were wrapped around the coffee cup and she closed her eyes in the warm sunshine.

“Tell me about when you saved the bandit.”

That made her dad laugh. “You never stop loving a romantic tale, Rose. You must know the story by heart.

“But I love it. It’s better than the penny dreadfuls I read.”

“Anything would be better than those.” He smiled at her fondly. “My romantic and adventurous daughter. Okay. One day, when I was coming home from the cattle sales…”

Rose leaned back and enjoyed the story. Her dad had come across a man with a nasty, infected bullet wound.

“The man was delirious and had a raging temperature, to the point that he couldn’t tell me anything. I managed to put him on his horse nearby and brought him home with me.”

Rose knew the story but asked him to go on. “What happened after that?”

“I was able to bring him around and cleaned up the bullet wound. It took some time, but he managed to get up and about.”

“What was he like?” Rose asked. She could vaguely remember seeing this man around the place six years ago. Her memory was hazy and she liked to hear her Dad describe him.

“James Roscoe was a bandit.” He paused as he always did for dramatic effect and Rose waited. “He was tanned and wiry and, fortunately for him, he had a strong constitution. His body was able to fight the infection and he started to help out around the place.”

“If he was a bandit, was he on the run?” she asked.

“He had never been to jail and as far as I know, he hadn’t killed anyone. He wasn’t on a wanted list and we found out that he had a good heart.”

“How did we find out?” she asked with a smile.

“He came back after he left and gave me some money to make up for the cattle we had lost through rustling. This area is a wild place a lot of the time. The law can’t deal with these thieves who make off with the stock.”

“So he had no money when you found him?”

“He had been robbed of the gold he was carrying, but he had money stashed somewhere and came back with it. He told me that he would always help me if he could because I had saved his life.”

“His eyes,” she urged. “Tell me about his eyes.”

She closed her eyes again and listened to the description of the green-gray eyes that had flecks of amber in them.

“You would always recognize them again. They gave him a very distinctive look.” Her father finished the tale and stood up. He offered her a hand, pulling his daughter to her feet. “You’ve had your romantic dreaming for today. Some dinner would be a good repayment.”

She kissed his cheek and took the coffee cups away to the house before he called her back outside.

“You have a visitor,” he said. Coming in at the gate was her friend Belle Mason, along with Michael Foster.

“Howdy,” Rose exclaimed. “Come inside out of the sun. Michael slipped from his horse and came over to kiss Rose on the cheek.

“I thought that you might like to come visit one day this week and we can spend a little bit of time together.”

“And I just came along to see how you were doin’,” Belle added, moving around in her usual fidgety way.

“Come and have a drink,” Rose said. “Beer, Michael?”

“Beer for me as well,” Belle chimed in. She bounced up the steps and into the house. Michael smiled and offered Rose a hand.

“She never changes, does she?” he asked. Rose shook her head.

“She was the same in school. Never could sit still.”

Belle swung her bright ginger hair and laughed at them. “You two need to liven up a bit.”

Rose just ignored her schoolfriend. She knew Belle was a little jealous that Michael was courting Rose. She handed out drinks. Her dad came to join them and he and Michael dropped straight into talking cattle. The difference between them was that Michael ran a successful ranch and Alan Dutton was struggling.

The visitors didn’t stay long and Rose said she would come over at midday in two days’ time. Rose knew her childhood friend wasn’t happy about Rose and Michael’s plans without her. Belle was always following Michael cleaned up and seemed to think Rose was standing in the way of their happiness.

Michael said that he would leave them in peace. Belle was happy to go along with him.

“I’m sure Michael will ask you to marry him one day,” Alan said as they watched the visitors ride away. Rose nodded.

“I’m sure that you’re right.” She hesitated. “I know I should say yes and be glad that a kind man wants to marry me, but…” She looked at her dad.

“He’s not a wildly romantic character that comes out of one of the books you read” Alan finished for her.

“He’ll help you run this place well, though, and maybe Mom’s dream will eventually come true.”

She washed the glasses and cups with a sigh. Sometimes, Mom’s dream and the lack of excitement were just a little bit more than she could shake off. She went to find something to make for dinner.

Alan and Rose were left in peace, but not for very long.

“Dad,” Rose called, glancing out the window, “the mayor is here, and he has that awful deputy, Big Charlie, with him. It’s ten days until the next payment on the loan,” she added, but she was worried. The mayor was a greedy man and it didn’t look like a friendly visit.

The mayor slid from his horse with some difficulty as he was more portly than he should have been. Big Charlie, the deputy sheriff, was also a large man, but his heaviness was due to a big frame—he was a strong man despite the excess weight. It made him seem like a dangerous sort of man. The two of them could almost have been father and son, but they weren’t related.

Alan headed to the door to see what they wanted.

“Alan,” the mayor called out when he stepped onto the porch, “just a visit to talk about the money that you owe me.”

“The payment isn’t due for another ten days,” Rose broke in and answered for her dad, shouldering her way onto the porch with him.

“Woman with a mouth.” The mayor sighed and spat on the ground to one side. Rose shuddered as she saw what he was doing and he laughed. He spat again just to make her feel worse and told her that he was talking to her father.

“Alan, this money. I’ve decided that I need it all paid back because I have other expenses coming due.”

Alan paled and Rose stood tall beside him.

“I want all of it at the end of next week or I want the deeds to this ranch and land.” The mayor was already red in the face because he was in a permanent state of anger over one thing or another. When he was being forceful and angry to get his own way, it got worse.

He grabbed his bandana to mop at his face and took a step forward. Rose thought he might collapse and almost stepped forward, but he stopped and glared at her.

“Woman your age should be married and not a burden to her fathers.”

Rose opened her mouth to retort but Big Charlie stepped between them.

“Boss,” he said and stood next to the mayor, “let me handle these people.”

He looked at Alan and attempted a smile that didn’t quite make it. He held out a hand.

“This money can legally be collected early if the lender wants to do so. The loan was against the property and if you cannot pay it, you’ll have to give up the land in place of the debt.” He held out his hands as if he was trying to be reasonable, but Rose gave him a look that would have burned up anyone with a fraction of decency. He tried the smile again, and again, it didn’t work.

“You’re a disgrace, Charlie Tipple. Does the sheriff know that you’re riding shotgun for this crooked man who calls himself a mayor? I think not. This is robbery and you well know it.”

“It’s the law,” Charlie replied. “He’s telling the truth. If you can’t pay, you give up the land and the ranch.” He stared Rose straight in the eye and folded his fleshy arms across his chest.

He painted an ugly picture of a man who rarely washed or shaved. He had an enormous and unkempt beard that had never seen a comb in its life. Rose stared right back at him and the deputy sheriff was the first to look away.

“Ten thousand dollars or the land. That is my final word,” the mayor said. “One week from tomorrow and we will be back.”

“And we will have a posse because the man is within his rights,” Charlie added.

“Before you go,” Alan spoke up at last and the two men looked at him, “can I ask why you changed your mind? It was only last month that we started to pay on this loan. What has changed?”

“My mind,” the mayor replied. “I want my money back. Next week or the land.” Mayor David McPhee turned and went back toward his horse when he was stopped in his tracks by six men arriving on horseback.

Even the mayor and big Charlie could see they were not to be trifled with.

“Have we spoiled a meeting?” the man in the lead asked politely, glancing at Rose. She saw his eyes land on her and he smiled.

“You’re timing things nicely, Mr. Roscoe,” she said without letting it seem that it was unusual for a group of well-tooled fighting men to arrive on their doorstep. James Roscoe took the hint that she was telling him that things were not going well. He loosened the gun in the holster at his hip.

“On your way then, gentlemen.” Roscoe took off his Stetson and held it out as if showing a lady to the door. As it was obvious that the other five men behind him were also hovering their hands near to their guns, the mayor and the deputy sheriff walked their horses sedately away.

James Roscoe slipped from his horse and walked over to Rose.

“How did you know who I was?” he asked, and Rose’s insides did a little flip as he came toward her.

“You have very distinctive eyes,” she said and then saw that her dad looked as white as a sheet.

Chapter Two

James seemed to notice Rose’s dad’s condition at the same time and they both hurried across to where he sat.

“Water,” Rose said and rushed inside to come back with a cup. She told her dad to drink some and he did as he was told.

James Roscoe sat beside him and pulled out a small hip flask from his pocket.

“Take a slug of this as well,” he said and handed over the whiskey. Alan took a swig, handed back the flask, and wiped his hand across his eyes. “We just arrived to see how you were as we were passing through. Looks like you need a bit of help.”

“I can manage,” Alan told him. Rose took a breath and James saw her stop herself from speaking out.

“I don’t believe you, Doctor Dutton. I stayed here long enough the last time to know what you’re like. You’re a wonderful doctor but a poor liar.” He looked at the five men still on horseback. “Climb down, men. I think we need to help these folk. This is the man who saved my life six years ago and I wouldn’t be here now without his skills.”

The men slid from their horses and Rose said they could put the animals into the corral. The men took the horses away and she slipped inside the house to find what they had to eat. She was finding the steak that she had been keeping to one side when James Roscoe came in beside her.

“Your dad is at the end of his rope with this situation,” he said and picked up a piece of bread to eat as he talked. She smiled and pushed some cold chicken across to him to go with the bread.

“I know, but his dream is to fulfill what my mom wanted to do. She dreamed of a ranch and a new world. She was a pioneer woman, I guess, but Dad is not the same.”

“He’s a darn good doctor, though,” James pointed out. Rose nodded.

“I wish he would work as a doctor. He would make some money and Cody and I could make the ranch work.” She hesitated. “But I guess that’s not an option with the mayor wanting his money back next week.”

“He told me what the two men were here for. Hmm. They won’t get the ranch while we’re here. Who is Cody?”

“He’s the foreman and knows what the ranch needs but we can’t afford him full-time. He’ll be here later.”

Without needing to be asked, James took the cutlery to the table. It felt natural, like he’d spent years with her already.

“I know you were around when I was a young girl, but we seem as if we have known each other a long time.”

James felt a little skip of excitement. It was like she’d read his mind. He reached across to pick up one of the jugs that she had put to go to the table and his arm touched her shoulder as he stretched. As their bodies made contact, James leaped back as if he had been stung. The sizzle that went through him at the touch was so strong that it frightened him.

Rose rubbed her shoulder but went on cooking steak and the five bandits came into the house with her father.

“I have enough steak and potatoes for everyone,” she said. “There’s a water bowl if you want to wash off the dust from the journey.”

The men sluiced water over their faces and dried their hands. She put the steak onto plates and James took them for her as if he did it every day. She carried over the vegetables and told them to help themselves. There was onion gravy in a jug and fresh bread to wipe their plates clean.

Then she sat with six bandits and her dad to eat steak and potatoes as if they had robbers at the table every day. The men all grinned at her and said they didn’t expect to be fed like this.

“One thing we do have on a ranch is steak and usually eggs and milk.”

“Thanks for making us welcome,” said the man who seemed to be James’ right-hand man. “I’m Nathan.”

“I’m Rose. My dad is a doctor as James has mentioned, but—”

“But call me Alan,” her dad broke in. “Thanks for arriving when you did.” He told them all what he had told James and the men looked horrified.

“Breaking the law is one thing, but threatening decent folk is quite another,” Nathan responded.

“I think,” James said, “that if Alan and Rose would like the help, we can stay until things are settled. We can help around the ranch and,” he paused, “find some of the money for him. What do you think?”

“If I get fed like this, we can stay here forever,” joked a man who said he was Sidney.

“What did you plan to do, Alan?” James asked.

Alan put down his fork and looked around. “I’ll ask the neighboring ranches if they can help me out, but I don’t think it will be a lot. The mayor wants ten thousand dollars or the land.”

“But it was only last month that he lent us the money.” Rose smiled. “At least we have some support from you. That feels a lot better.”

She pushed back her chair and found cake to put out for the dessert and offered either coffee or beer. The men took beer and she poured herself a coffee. Then they found comfortable seats and talked about why the group was passing through the area.

“Gold,” James answered. “We heard there was gold farther out on the open land. It’s very rocky and the sort of place that seems likely to have gold.”

“I like working on a ranch,” Sid said. “Happy to do some work.”

The others said more or less the same thing as the door opened and Cody Ross came inside. He stopped short at the number of men in the living room. Alan waved him inside.

“You must be Cody,” James said and held out a hand. “James Roscoe and my merry men.”

“Merry is right, after that great meal,” Nathan added and Rose poured Cody a beer.

“You might well be puzzled, but these men arrived at just the right time,” Alan told him and related the events of the morning again.

“Oh, Lord above,” Cody said. “That man is evil. Big Charlie pretends to be a deputy but he’s the mayor’s lapdog.”

“We will stay around for the week, if Alan would like the help,” James offered. “He can try to raise money and Nathan can go along to make sure he is protected. The rest of us can guard the place and work at whatever needs doing. What do you think?”

He looked at Alan who smiled and agreed. “Sounds like the best plan that we have,” he answered.

“The men can sleep in the barn,” James added. ”And myself.”

“But eat in here,” Rose said.

“Help is really needed,” Cody told them. “Come and see what is to be done.”

They all filed out of the house and Rose was left with the washing up. She reflected, as she cleaned up, that it was unusual to have a band of robbers in the house and it was strange that she felt completely safe.

Compared to the mayor, they’re all angels.

“You’re daydreaming a bit, there,” James said as he and Cody came back inside.

“I do far too much daydreaming,” she admitted. “I read too many penny dreadful storybooks.”

The two men took a coffee each and sat at the fire. She heard them talking about the stock and the cost of cattle and how much they needed to do.

“I grew up on a ranch,” James was telling Cody. “I guess it’s always in your system.”

Rose found her sewing and sat by the window. Since the bandits arrived, she had felt a sort of quiet that she hadn’t felt before. It was nice to sit and sew and hear voices talking about the ranch. It felt good to know that people couldn’t just ride up and demand that they hand over what they owned.

After a while, she went to find her dad, who was showing the men where the fences needed mending.

“That, we can fix,” Sidney told him and asked where the tools were kept.

Cody and James came out and Rose said she would find blankets to put in the barn. She went off and James followed her inside. She headed for the spare bedroom, where she kept folded blankets on top of a large chest. She took an armful and he lifted them out of her grasp so that she could find some more. She looked over the pile that she was carrying and he laughed as he could just see her eyes.

“There’s a spare bed here that you can use,” she said, pointing with her head to the bed. “You might as well have a bit of comfort since you’re saving our lives here.”

“Thanks,” he replied. “I’ll see if the men are okay with that. I do like to treat myself the same way I treat them. It means we’re a close group and help each other.”

They took out the blankets and laid out straw in the barn to make for comfortable sleeping arrangements.

“That’s all of you sorted,” James said with a grin. “I’m going to use the spare bed in the house. Unless you want to arm wrestle me for it.”

There was a lot of laughter and one or two said they knew they could beat him. No one was serious. The fence menders started to do what was needed and James asked Cody why the cattle were near the house and had to be fed.

“This hundred head is all we have left, and the youngsters will sell to keep us going for another year. We lost the rest to rustlers.”

“New Mexico is a wild land,” James observed, “but we have men to ride out just now.”

“You think we should let them roam and ride out to check on them?” Cody asked.

“Yes. It would mean the hay would stay for winter feed and the cattle would be fatter with more grazing.”

“I’ll ask Alan,” Cody said and went off to find his boss.

“Thanks,” Rose said to James. “You’re making us all feel safer and that things can be made to work.”

He looked into her eyes and smiled. It made her heart dance inside her chest, and it apparently showed on her face.

“You have beautiful eyes yourself, Rose.”

She saw her dad coming over with Cody and left the compliment in her head to dream about later.

Chapter 3

The men decided to send the cattle in the direction away from the town.

“Out of sight of the mayor would seem like a good idea,” James suggested. “Men, keep them moving away and try to find some good pasture.”

The bandits went to saddle their horses and Cody told them that there was a canyon to use that had good grazing.

“Go with them, Cody,” Alan said. “It will be easier to guard them in the canyon, as well.”

The foreman ran to join the other men.

“I’ll collect the eggs,” Rose said and went to do that and think about food for later. Cooking for eight men was going to be a bit of a tall order.

She found her dad and James at the fireside with a coffee each and James was asking what Alan would do the next day.

“I’ll go tell everyone who is nearby about the situation. There aren’t many farms and ranches in the area, and none are wealthy.”

“Michael will help if he can,” Rose joined in.

“Who is Michael?” James asked, and she let her dad tell James that he was a local rancher who was courting Rose. She looked over and caught a quick expression on James’ face.

“He’s a good man,” she added.

“But not romantic enough for my day-dreaming daughter with her head in the clouds,” Alan pointed out with a half smile.

“Take Nathan with you tomorrow, as I mentioned. It will make you safer and give you some company,” James suggested. “I’ll organize things here and the men can take turns riding out to check on the cattle. Cody knows what we should be doing around the ranch.”

“Thanks,” Alan replied. “I still think of making this work in memory of my wife and baby son. He died as well when she was giving birth. The idea of building a ranch was always what she wanted to do.”

“And being the good doctor that he is, he still blames himself.” Rose went to sit on the arm of her dad’s chair. “Giving birth is dangerous for women.”

“And this is a wild land. You are brave people who come out here and try to make a home.”

“It is quite a beautiful place,” Rose said. “New Mexico has mountains, forests, rivers and yet still has dry and dusty plains that stretch for miles.”

“Unfortunately, the dry and dusty plains are what we have, and they are not good grazing,” Alan pointed out wryly.

“There must be good land at the foot of the hills and mountains,” James reasoned and Alan nodded.

“That’s fine while we have your men to guard the steers, but they’re easy for rustlers to take when it’s just the three of us.”

Alan stood up and said he would see how the fences were doing. James put a hand on his arm.

“I have some money hidden. Well, not hidden, because I put it in a bank account for when times are poor. See what you get from the neighbors and I can add some for you.”

Alan opened his mouth to protest but James shook his head.

“I wouldn’t be standing here today if it wasn’t for your skills. I will never forget that. I would have died where I lay if you hadn’t come by.”

“I should be able to look after my own family. It’s not right for you to have to lend me money.”

“Well, to start with, I’m not lending you money. I’m paying for my life, thank you very much.” He paused. “I have to say that Rose has a good idea when she says that you should be a doctor and let Cody run the ranch. Once it was thriving, you could employ more men and they would guard more cattle and you would make more money.”

“That was a long speech.” Rose laughed. “I agree, though. Now, if you two would go check on the others, I can use the kitchen to make some food.”

“You’re the boss, Rose,” James said. He treated her to one of those smiles that sent her insides into jelly and grinned as if he knew it. He and Alan went outside.

Rose sang a little song as she made pastry for pies to feed them all later.

Her dad came back in and she asked if everything was working well. He said it was and again mentioned that he felt guilty about other folk having to help him out.

“You know that lots of the neighbors come to you for medical advice and help. They’ll be glad if they can do something in return.”

He nodded and she told him that James was going to use the spare bedroom. She had taken blankets to the barn and they would all have to have eggs for breakfast.

“You see? You’re not always dreaming about romance. You can run a good ranch house.” He kissed the top of her head and went away to his study to work out how much money they could raise.

Rose watched him go with a heavy heart. She knew his dream was to keep her mother’s memory alive; he had loved her so much. But there was no way on earth that he could raise ten thousand dollars, and she was afraid of where they might end up.

James came in and asked if the fence menders could have some coffee.

“That’s a sad look,” he said when he saw her face.

“Dad is trying to find the money for the land and I know he’s not going to manage it.”

“We’ll find a way,” he told her.

She poured the coffee and put the cups onto a tray. There were just two men and James left at the ranch and she took a cup for herself.

“It’s a lovely day,” she told them. “I might as well have a seat in the sun.”

They found hay bales and pulled them to the barn door.

“Tell us what the land is like where the cattle have been driven,” James asked her.

“It gets very mountainous quite quickly and is hard land to ride in,” Rose explained. “There are protected canyons where the pasture is rich, but on the open plains, there are old mineshafts that are quite dangerous because you can fall down them. Most of them are just left uncovered.”

What sort of mines?” James asked.

“The place was founded by a man called Jimmy Rascalls. He was convinced there was gold out there but I don’t think he ever found much. He ended up starting the town as a trading post and becoming the first mayor. The town is called Rascalls Flats,” Rose told him. “It led to a good many gold miners coming to see if they could find any, but most of them left those open shafts and went away empty-handed.”

“The Rose of the Frontier” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!

Rose Dutton is a romantic at heart, living her days in the vast expanse of her family’s ranch, dreaming of fairy-tale love. Her father, a kind-hearted doctor, once saved a wounded bandit’s life, and this enigmatic outlaw has held a place in her heart ever since. He swears to repay her father’s act of mercy and when threats darken their tranquil ranch, he returns, fulfilling his promise and invigorating her wildest dreams.

Could her life become the fairytale romance she yearns for?

James Roscoe is an unexpected hero, the bandit with a knight’s honor. Currently in hiding, he and his motley crew find sanctuary in the place to which he owes his life. The ranch and its occupants need their protection against the town’s vile mayor. He defends Rose once, driving the predator away, but can he stay long enough to shield her from future dangers or should he ride away into the sunset?

Will he stave off the feelings that threaten to ensnare his heart?

As the mayor’s desperation intensifies, his plot to seize the ranch spirals into an entangled web of corruption. Will the concealed truth finally see the light of day? As the bandit grapples between duty and love, will their choices lead them towards their shared destiny, or will fate shatter their dreams, leaving Rose’s heart in ruins?

“The Rose of the Frontier” is a historical western romance novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.

Get your copy from Amazon!

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