Entry Nickname: Irish in America
Word Count: 100,000
Genre: Adult Historical Romance
When Jesse Travers’ father and brother die, they leave her with two things: a crumbling ranch and a deep well of distrust.
Shunned by the village for her outlaw brother’s deeds, Jesse is not sorry to hear he’s been killed while robbing a bank. Strangely enough it is Adam Donovan, the man who shot her brother, who brings the news. Even more strange, considering his reputation as a gunfighter, is the Irish immigrant’s willingness to help put her ranch back on solid footing.
The Arizona Territory of the 1880s was never kind to a woman alone, and Jesse’s experiences with her neighbors have left her jaded. But love for her canyon home overcomes her trepidation, and she accepts Donovan’s help. He seems gentle and empathetic, a far cry from her brother, whose relentless abuse drove her to the brink of despair, or her father, who would never believe the things Jesse told him about her brother.
As they work together, Jesse begins to let down her guard, and feels the first stirrings of love–an experience she’s never known before. On the verge of believing she might be worthy of happiness, Jesse discovers that her mongrel brother’s treachery has consequences that reach beyond the grave, and they might rip the new life she’s building to shreds.
If the truth comes out, Jesse knows the villagers will blame her for her brother’s crimes–they’ve done it all along. Her only recourse is to confide in Donovan and hope he’ll stand with her. But if she’s wrong about him, she’s doomed to a lifetime of solitude and shame.
Jesse Travers stood in the cabin door, willing her hands to unclench, her jaw to relax. The old man who sat wrapped in a blanket by the fire was being more querulous than usual. He can’t help it, she told herself, any more than he can help being old. Or crippled. But God help us if this day doesn’t end soon.
The clearing where the cabin stood was too quiet. No breeze stirred the aspen leaves. No birds trilled, no squirrels scampered. Even the brook ran silently today.
The only restful thing was the occasional glimpse of buckskin in the sycamores. The old man always told her that wild animals knew where there was danger and would run away. So maybe it’s nothing–maybe it’s just too hot for April. Maybe that’s what makes me feel so sick.
Then the utter silence yielded to the faint clip–clop of horse’s hooves.
No one should be coming. No one ever came. She tasted the sharp metal of fear. As the hoofbeats closed in, she took up an old Sharps rifle and moved out onto the sagging porch, into the shadows of its roof.
Round the edge of the cottonwood grove, the horse ambled into sight. Its rider had dark hair, dark clothes, a dark gun sitting low on his left hip. There isn’t anyone in the Territory who doesn’t know who he is. And where he comes from. Squaring her shoulders and raising the rifle, she took a single step into the light.