A Hero's Heart

A Hero's Heart by Sylvia McDaniel Read Free Book Online

Book: A Hero's Heart by Sylvia McDaniel Read Free Book Online
Authors: Sylvia McDaniel
couldn’t leave now. “We can talk right here.”
    “I think it would be best if we spoke in private.”
    Wade looked around at the crowded saloon. Men stood watching and waiting to see what would happen. A voice in the crowd yelled, “Is this your wife, Ketchum?”
    Rachel’s spine stiffened until he thought it would surely crack from the tension. She pulled a handkerchief out of her pocket and fanned herself. “Please, Mr. Ketchum, I sent you a message I was waiting outside.”
    The cards in his hand were a winning combination; the last of his money lay on the table. Two minutes more would see the hand finished. He couldn’t get up and walk away now. “No one told me.”
    Wade frowned. Something must have happened for her come inside a saloon looking for him. Something dreadful. “What’s wrong? Is one of the kids hurt?”
    He watched her twist the handkerchief in her hands, her eyes downcast. “The children are fine.”
    “Then why are you here?”
    “I have to…”
    “Tell me, Rachel,” Wade demanded, realizing she wouldn’t have come here if it wasn’t urgent.
    Her face was pale against the stark black mourning gown she wore. She put the handkerchief up to her nose and inhaled deeply. “I must—get married.”
    Laughter resounded through the saloon. Wade stared in shock. Married? Had he heard her correctly?
    A booming voice yelled from the crowd, “You got the lady in the family way, Ketchum?”
    Rachel’s mouth dropped open. Her eyes widened in fright and her pale face suddenly turned scarlet. She put the handkerchief to her lips and hurried for the door, bumping any man who was in her path, with her parasol.
    Wade stared in disbelief at her retreating figure. “Damn! What in the hell is she talking about.” He threw down his cards and hurried out the door.
    She ran as fast as her long skirts would allow, but he easily caught her as she reached the front gate of the fort.
    Grabbing her by the arm, he whirled her around to face him. “What in the hell are you talking about?”
    Rachel stood before him, tears streaming down her face, her shoulders shaking. “I should never have gone in there. I should never have considered this would work. I’m crazy for believing you would help me.”
    “Slow down, woman. I can’t understand a word you’re saying. Tell me what’s happened.”
    He watched as she took several deep, calming breaths. “I’ve never been so humiliated in all my life. Now, everyone thinks that you and I…”
    Wade grinned completing her thought with relish. “I have to admit you created some scene back there.” He took a deep breath. “Did you say what I think you did?”
    “Yes, Mr. Ketchum. I must be married by day after tomorrow.”
    “Why? I know you’re not…ah…in the family way.”
    “Of course not!” Rachel exclaimed, her hazel eyes wide in her distress. “How could you think such a thing?”
    “You’re a damn good-looking woman. Any man would be stupid to turn down…” Stunned, he suddenly realized she had come with the express purpose of asking him to marry her. He released her arm as if he had touched a hot iron and started to back away.
    “Oh no. I’m not interested in getting married. You’re a fine woman, but marriage…”
    Rachel held up her hands, as if in anguish. Words began to pour from her lips at a rapid rate. “The wagon train will not accept Becky and me unless one of us is married. I thought if you married me, we could get it annulled as soon as we reached Oregon. It wouldn’t be forever. Just a couple of months.”
    “One little slip and those months could turn into years. We’d be stuck with one another.”
    “There will be no slip, Mr. Ketchum,” Rachel assured, him her tone indignant at the very suggestion.
    Frustrated, Wade tossed her an icy glare. “Just what do you have against my name? You want me to marry you, yet you can’t even call me Wade.”
    Rachel stared at him, clearly embarrassed. She stammered, “I…don’t

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