Hannah Alexander

Hannah Alexander by Keeping Faith Read Free Book Online Page A

Book: Hannah Alexander by Keeping Faith Read Free Book Online
Authors: Keeping Faith
toppled the bottle still open on the log.
    Joseph frowned. “Are you ready to tell me what’s had you so frightened these past days?”
    How tempting to place her faith in this man, to allow him control over her life so she wouldn’t have to stand on her own, but that wasn’t what she needed to do right now. She had left her parents in Pennsylvania, her husband in the ground by the Mississippi River. She was an independent woman now, and she didn’t need another man to bolster her. Joseph meant well, but despite the time they had spent together he didn’t know her intentions enough to direct her path.
    She turned to look up into his carved-granite face and intent regard. He didn’t know her most important secret, and that was something he especially needed to be aware of in order to protect his wagon train.
    Steeling herself against his discomfiting attention, she took a deep breath of rain-cleansed air, closed her eyes briefly and made the decision she knew would change everything. “Matthew...” The words caught in her throat. She swallowed and looked back at Joseph. “He was murdered.”

Chapter Four
    J oseph might have been a copy of the wood carving outside the trading post door at the last town, where the wagon train had stopped to purchase supplies. Silence seemed to hum with the power of a beehive. The chatter of the others merged into a low echo in the distance. The wagon train had struggled through deep mud, broken wheels, lost wagons, illness and loss of livestock. Few things had disconcerted Captain Joseph Rickard these past weeks on the trail, but this definitely affected him.
    She wished it hadn’t been necessary to tell him, and yet he needed to know how dangerous it would be to follow the killer’s trail.
    “Who murdered him?” he asked at last. Was that a tremor she heard in his voice?
    She hesitated, bracing herself against the pain as she relived that day. “A slaver by the name of Broderick Thames.”
    “How do you know?”
    “I heard the shots on my way home from town, where I was purchasing medicines. I was out of sight.”
    “Or your life would most likely have been snuffed out, as well.” Joseph glared at the ground, his jaw muscles flexing with an obvious attempt to quell the effects of his fury.
    “Thames,” he said. “I don’t know the name, and I’ve been making an effort to learn more about our enemies.”
    “Oh, Joseph, believe me when I tell you that this man is an enemy.”
    “Are you sure he wasn’t a robber?”
    “He didn’t rob us of goods, only of a good man with a heart of pure kindness.”
    “Was there laudanum missing? I’ve heard of doctors being attacked for their supplies.” Joseph’s tone was clipped with anger. She knew his ire was not directed toward her, and she was touched deeply by his outrage.
    “No.” Tears stung her eyes. “Matthew was a specific target. His killer rode away before I could get my rifle sights on him, or I’d have put him on the ground instead of grazing the side of his neck and staining his silvery hair.”
    “You’re the one who did that?”
    For a moment she couldn’t take a deep enough breath. Joseph knew of that wound? “What do you mean? What do you know about Thames?”
    “Only what I overheard at one of the trading posts.” Joseph nodded as if her confession seemed to have made some puzzle pieces fall into place. “A dour man with a long, silver braid and a deep red scar along his neck and jaw was asking questions about abolitionists in the area.”
    “The red scar was from my weapon.”
    “Good. You do, however, seem to shoot squirrels better than you do retreating murderers.”
    “Joseph, I’ve seen evidence of him on this trail. He rides a red horse shod uniquely, as if part of the right front hoof is missing.”
    “You’ve tracked him?”
    “Of course. What would you expect? I know where he’s headed. That much I was able to discern from Matthew’s final words.” How she grieved

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