would not join the ranks of men who murdered women. Ever. “The Republic has plans for this patch of land, Rory.” He waited for the backlash for using her nickname again but only the wind spoke to him. “If it isn’t me, then it’s a group of rangers or possibly troops.” He had no idea if that was true or not but it sounded good. All he knew was Texas claimed it when Lowell Benson died and now this woman claimed to be his daughter. Or at least he thought she did. “This land belonged to Lowell Benson, not Foster. You might claim this land but you don’t appear to have a legal right to it.” Again the wind was the only thing that answered him. “I will sit right here and wait on you, Rory. I’ve got a lot of patience. Had to with four sisters.” He picked a likely spot to camp beneath a big oak tree right in front of the smithy. Sooner or later, she would return. If he was right, the woman cared a great deal about her business and the building it sat in. She wouldn’t let it be destroyed by the untended fire inside or the voluminous amounts of smoke leaking from its closed hatches. All he had to do was outwait her.
The afternoon crept by while he waited, poking around her things. He knew she watched him but he couldn’t spot her. Damndest thing ever. To find a woman like her was like a punch to the gut. She unmanned him with her frank and sneaky ways. He would have shot a man in the leg. A flesh wound of course, but it slowed them down. No way he could do that with a woman. It went against all he’d been taught. Even if she cussed and swung a hammer, she was a female and deserved a measure of chivalry, or a flavor of it anyway. When she sat down beside him, he had to tell himself not to react. It was damn hard. She was warm, hot even, with a firm body he could clearly see outlined in the trousers she wore. They were pulled tight on her ass and hips. There was a hell of a lot more curves than he expected. “I’m sorry I pulled that dirty trick on you, Ranger. I was angry. Still am.” Her tone was honest but tight with that anger she professed to. “Understandable, but I’m an officer of the law for the Republic. I could arrest you for assault.” He would do no such thing. It would embarrass the hell out of him but she didn’t need to know that. “Facing a dangerous person like me must be exhausting.” A chuckle crept up his throat and he managed to swallow it. “I have my fair share of perilous situations in this job, Mrs. Foster. You’re not the first and you won’t be the last.” “Hm, I’m sure that’s true.” She didn’t sound as though she believed him. “I have a proposition, Ranger.” For a moment, perhaps two, he wondered if her proposition involved naked bodies and the promise never to tell what they’d done. Hot, sweaty bodies in the tall grass, firm curves and an afternoon of pleasure he would never forget. “I want you to leave and forget you found me. Tell the government they made a mistake and this land belongs to me.” His fantasy about her curves in his hands was gone in a puff of reality. “Pardon?” “The way I see it, you can’t admit I bested you and I have nowhere to go. Leave now and no one has to know.” She had a smug expression on her face, as though she had solved both their problems with her foolish notions. “You didn’t best me.” He crossed his arms and gave her his best lawman stone cold stare. “Yep, I did. You just don’t have the balls to admit it.” She got to her feet and brushed her trousers off. His gaze slid to that posterior, its round shape giving him all kinds of ideas of how it would feel if he took her from behind. Caleb was surprised by the direction of his thoughts. A few days ago, he had Mary in his lap, her tits in his face. Yet he hadn’t had one thought as lascivious as what had rolled through his head about the lady blacksmith. Maybe he should have found his pleasure with sweet Mary and he wouldn’t