FREE SHIPPING
on all orders over $50.00



Share it:


Riverboats and Rainbows

Author(s): Jewel Adams

RIVERBOATS & RAINBOWS

Timeless Loves Series
by
Jewel Adams
Historical Adult Romance Time Travel
The renovated riverboat appears to be the perfect solution for her aunt's annual fundraiser. Angela La Cross' busy agenda didn't include falling into the boat's hold. When she comes to and finds she is the only woman on a boat full of men, she begins to think this wasn't such a good idea.
James McFarlain wanted his last trip up the Mississippi to be uneventful. The last thing he expected to see on the Silver Queen was a woman. Telling himself she was nothing but a mess of trouble didn't stop him from looking into her emerald eyes. When she silently sought his help, James knew he was done for.
Her trip back in time to 1875 became only a minor set back for Angie when compared to a good looking cowboy, cattle rustlers and one very determined Sioux warrior.
Angela might survive her tumble through time, but can her heart decide between the love of two men? Can she find the answers before time runs out? Her journey is not an easy one when love keeps changing the rules. Join Angie in the adventure of a lifetime, one that will capture your heart!
 

Published by JA Creations

Copyright © 2013 Jewel Adams
All Right Reserved
 
Names, characters and incidents depicted in this book are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental and beyond the intent of the author or the publisher. This is a work of historical fiction and as such word usage, grammar and spelling can be depicted of the setting and should not be confused with current word usage, grammar and spelling.
No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
Electronic formats are numerous for the variety of readers now available. Due to the different formats there can be problems with fonts, spacing and words. Please realize the novel is edited and copy edited, and that these types of errors can happen after the fact.
 
Credits
Cover Artist: Beverly Haynes
Editor: Juliette Ashton
 
 
 

WHAT THEY ARE SAYING ABOUT

RIVERBOATS AND RAINBOWS

 
5 Hearts – The Romance Studio - Riverboats and Rainbows is a wonderful book. The triangle between the hearts adds quite a twist to the plot that skillfully takes you through passion, love and anguish.
Reviewer: Angie
 
5! Love Romances- Even for those who are not fans of time travels and westerns, Riverboats and Rainbows is a “do not miss” story. The complexities of the characters as they grow and move through the story will stay with the reader long after the story ends.
Reviewer: Gina
 
 
RIVERBOATS & RAINBOWS
 

Prologue

 

“Angie, what about a carnival, we could sell tickets and...”
“We’d never break even. Besides, Clayton already has a carnival in the fall. No, it has to be something different…unique.”
Shuffling through the fliers and brochures on her desk, she felt like pitching them in the trash. Why in heaven’s name did she agree to run this year’s Charity Drive? Because Auntie Belle wanted it, that’s why!
Isabelle La Cross was the most infuriating lady in town. She may be her only living relative, but Angie could scream over the woman’s manipulation, especially when she used it against her own niece. If she weren’t so darn lovable, Angie would tell the lady exactly what she could do with her good neighbor crusades.
“Look Sally, I’ve got an appointment at two, why don’t you take these and see what you can find. How about dinner at Rico’s, say at six? We can discuss it then. Maybe something will come to me by then.”
“And what should I tell, you know who, when she calls?”
“Tell my dear aunt I am working on it.” Under her breath, “If she gripes she can have the whole works back!”
“Now I could never say that to her, she’s too sweet.”
“Sweet?” Angie just glared at her friend as she sashayed out of Angie’s office. Sally knew exactly how to get to her. Falling back into the chair, the pencil started an impatient rhythm against the desk.
“Come on Angie think of something.”
As much as she was furious with her Aunt Belle for volunteering her, Angie acknowledged she wanted to do the best possible job. She’d just have to rearrange her schedule. La Cross Decorating took off this last year, what with the influx of new office buildings. At first, listening to Aunt Belle and locating the decorating firm in Clayton over New Orleans appeared to have been a terrible decision. Now, she actually employed staff besides her childhood friend, Sally.
Sally was everything to La Cross, without her Angie wouldn’t have been able to hold it together. If she landed this account, she would give her friend a well deserved bonus. “Time is running out.”
Spying the wall clock so was the day; if she didn’t hurry she would miss her luncheon appointment. Gathering her portfolio she rushed out of the office. As she passed Sally’s desk, “I’m late, if Mr. Greeley calls tell him I am on my way. I’ll see you at Rico’s.”
“Right, six o’clock.” Motioning to the phone receiver she held. “Yes Miss La Cross, I’ll tell her.” Holding it out so the woman could hear, “Your aunt will be there as well.”
Groaning, Angie pushed through the glass door. “Great!”
The evening would be a disaster there was no way around it. Reaching the elevator she mentally clicked off the list of possibilities for the fundraiser. Maybe she should just do the same old routine, dinner and Ball, sell the outrageously priced tickets and be done with it.
~*~
Tossing her purse on the counter, Angie collapsed into the couch. “What a day!”
Tired, but in high spirits over landing Greeley’s account, there was still enough time to change and make it to New Orleans and back before dinner. The idea came to her after leaving the restaurant. A riverboat would be the perfect place to hold the fundraiser!
An old time paddlewheel floating down the Mississippi; they could have a casino and everything, right on the water. The patrons would love it. Somewhere she remembered reading about one, the Silver Queen. Yes, that was the name. An old water wheel renovated for parties and tours up and down the river.
Grabbing a change of jeans, one of her oversized sweaters and a tank top, she quickly headed for the shower.
It felt nice to be out of the strict business attire. Slipping on her fringed, soft leather boots, she pulled them up to her knees before running a brush through the thick, waist length waves of her hair. She clipped the long bangs back from her face, letting the mass hang freely down her back.
The breeze was brisk as she drove the little MG down the ramp and onto the river expressway. Hitting the scan button on the radio it stopped on a Cajun station. The haunting music soon eased away the day’s strain. It was only three o’clock and wonderful to be away from the office. Missing the rush traffic added to her pleasure, but she would have a heck of a time getting back to Rico’s on time.
Pulling into a parking spot on the crowded dock, Angie wasn’t sure where to go. She held her hand up to shade her eyes as she located the riverboat that seemed dwarfed by the larger barges and freight vessels dominating the waterways. Angie decided the walk up the wharf area would be invigorating, she left her car and headed out. More than one wolf whistle came from the decks above her, but she went on, ignoring the crude calls.
She stood before the wooden gangplank of the relic and took in the fresh coat of white paint on the spiraled rails. Gold accents flourished over the intricate moldings. In bright red letters Silver Queen raced across the bow. It was beautiful. Angie felt her enthusiasm mounting.
Holding the soft roped rail, she ascended onto the boat. No one greeted her arrival making her wonder if the boat was deserted. It seemed unlikely anyone would just go off and leave her unattended. “Hello! Is anyone on board?”
When no answer came she ventured further, curious about the accommodations. Sliding open the etched glass door, she entered what looked like an old gambling casino, complete with a long, highly polished, wooden bar. Crystal glassware hung from racks across the full mirror backed wall. Liquor bottles lined the shelves, casting their rich hues into rainbows of dancing colors.
The weirdest sensation washed over her, forcing her eyes shut. Sounds of tinkling music and laughter floated around her. The smell of heavy cigar smoke filled her nostrils. Blinking against her sudden nervousness, the sounds and blurred images faded as quickly as they appeared.
She told herself, atmosphere is everything! Angela shook off the lingering sensations. The boat reeked of the Old South. The guests would certainly feel its history, adding to the entertainment.
Without some information to take back to her Aunt all her plans would be much of nothing. Moving through the glittering room, past the felt tables and red velvet chairs, she decided to take her explorations further. Somewhere, someone must be around that could help her.
Gaining the outer walkway around the boat Angie looked back towards the monstrous wooden paddle wheel, she decided to try up towards the wheelhouse. The river always fascinated her and right now it was a marvelous sight seeing the dark muddy water racing past the low hull. Climbing the slanted rungs to the glassed in command center, she could see that no one was inside. The huge varnished wheel stood alone like a guard over the open decks below. The place glowed under pieces of brass equipment she couldn’t begin to name, all polished to a high sheen. Knowing it would be rude to enter, she only looked on with envy at the antiques. Brightly colored benches lined the lower deck. Large spyglasses were mounted on the rails for sightseeing.
Glancing at her watch she moaned over the time. Angie decided she better find someone in the next half-hour or be late. Aunt Belle would be in a state if she failed to be on time.
Making her way back down the ladder, she spotted an open door at the front of the wheelhouse on the main deck. Looking into the darkness, the steep ladder went down into what seemed like a bottomless hole. Hugging herself over the sudden chill that seized her she called out. “Hey, is anyone down there?”
A noise she couldn’t identify came in answer to her question.
“Damn.” Coming back any time soon, with everything going on, would be out of the question. She set her purse down on the wooden lid of the hatch. Angie needed both hands to maneuver on the ladder. Turning backwards, she gingerly felt with her foot until she located a rung. Holding the door molding Angie carefully started down the ladder.
It took a few minutes before her eyes adjusted to the darkness. She certainly hoped someone was down here and she wasn’t going into the damp recesses of this boat for nothing. Everywhere she touched felt clammy, making her shudder as she gripped another rung. She wished she could see the bottom.
It happened so fast, her foot lost its hold on the slippery wood! Groping out she failed to regain her hold. The dark void swallowed her scream as she fell back into nothingness. Landing hard against the bottom, Angie let the blessed blackness take away the sharp cutting pain in her head.
 

CHAPTER 1

The Ante
 
“Raise you a hundred Jamey.” The man’s enthusiasm flowed over the table to the unaffected player.
The strong, tanned fingers slowly unfolded the cards, fanning them out for his private scrutiny. A full house, which meant Duncan was probably acting. James played him many times on the circuit. Duncan could never hide his eagerness when he thought he had James beat. Tonight certainly wasn’t going James’ way. A full two rounds of the deal and he’d only taken one small hand.
Looking around at the other two players, he figured this pot was too rich for their blood. They’d fold on the raise leaving only Duncan and himself to bluff it out. Maybe he should call it a night? Damn, it was too early for that, but James knew when the luck wasn’t with him. “I’ll see your hundred Duncan, and raise you fifty.”
He watched Duncan’s face blotch in anger. As he expected the others threw their hands down in disgust. James waited for Duncan to get over what his cards told his tight-eyed stare.
“You’re a lucky ass hole, Jamey.” Duncan tossed the cards into the pot.
James pulled the money and cards over to him, showing little over the defamation thrown his way. Separating out the cards, he gathered the small winnings and pushed away from the table. “It’s been nice.”
“You calling it a night?”
James didn’t bother to answer. Duncan would relish starting a fight. Going over to the bar, James angled himself so he could see the entire room.
“What will it be Mr. McFarlain?”
“Scotch, Willie.”
“Yes sir.”
James saw the captain in the bar mirror as he entered the casino. Captain Welsh wasn’t to be taken lightly. The river was his domain and heaven help the bastard stupid enough to cross him. Welsh looked more disagreeable than usual. James cursed the fact this boat had been the only one available for the ride up river. If he wasn’t in such a hurry he would never have stepped foot on the Silver Queen.
“You still work’n the river, McFarlain?”
“Now where else would I be, Captain?”
“Thought you might have smartened up and gotten off by now.”
Off the river James’ business was his own. Gambling wouldn’t have entered his past life. But that was before the war and everything he’d known had been destroyed or taken away. “The river feels slow tonight.”
“You should be captaining the Silver Queen, you always did know more than most men working the tables. Heard once you had a big plantation, down by New Orleans.”
“Times change.” Sipping his drink, he didn’t mind the man’s probing. It was common knowledge who he used to be. What he would be was no one’s concern but his own.
“Out of luck tonight or are the tables too cheap for your liking?”
“Like I said, Captain, the river is slow.”
“Duncan seems to be having a good night.”
James’ blue eyes watched the players’ reflections in the mirror. He didn’t like the way Duncan’s group looked, but kept it to himself. It was his last trip up river and he didn’t need any trouble.
One of the crew called the Captain away. James motioned Willie to set up another drink. Anxious to be off the river James thought about the future, something he hadn’t done for some time.
Mike would be waiting for him in St. Louis. They would start the drive from there to take the cattle to Montana. His crystal blue eyes went deep in concentration over the ranch, Twin Creeks. He didn’t like admitting how much he counted on that unknown place.
When he won it off that man last year, he’d been madder than a rattler and ready to throw the deed away in the next hand just to be free of it. Why he’d pocketed the deed he couldn’t recall.
That night in his cabin, it fell out of his coat. Picking it up James took his first look at the document. It was all there, all legally his, because of one man’s foolish pride in a card game. James thought long and hard over the land he now held title to. Remorse or conscience made him seek out the man that next morning. Mr. Burr must have been on a road of self-destruction. He learned the man got into another card game after James left. In the process Burr picked a fight with the wrong man and got himself killed over a five-dollar pot.
Finding he couldn’t give the land back, James decided to investigate what he owned. Wiring a banker associate of his, he learned just about all he could without actually seeing the property. The reports said everything was in order with the deed and that Mr. Burr had no living relatives. The land and ranch were said to be in good shape, though neglected.
Locating his brother Michael proved more of an effort than finding out about Twin Creeks. Mike, like James, left New Orleans after the war and discovering their uncle sold their home to carpetbaggers. It was a blow neither brother took lightly. James turned to gambling because it was there and he proved to be good at it. Being cautious over his playing partners kept him alive. He hated his present life and Twin Creeks looked like the answer he’d been searching for. There were enough funds from his gambling takes to buy a large herd of cattle and the stores needed to start the ranch. Hopefully, what was left would keep them going until she started holding her own.
 He learned all he could about the territory and James decided to take one last gamble. The cattle would be their staple stock, but there were herds of wild horses free for the taking. He planned to do just that. The government was hungry for horses, good riding stock, and James intended on getting in on the contracts they were issuing. Purchasing the stallion cost a large chunk of their funds, but he needed a good bloodline to start the horse ranch Twin Creeks would someday become.
Mike hadn’t been idle since he’d seen him two years ago. Working as trail boss for various outfits he willingly joined James in the venture. Between them, they would rebuild what took their family generations to accomplish and loose overnight.
“Another, Mr. McFarlain?”
“One more, Willie.”
Home? It felt strange to call it that. Neither of them had seen it yet, but James felt anxious to get there.
~*~
In the thick darkness she wasn’t sure if her eyes were open. But when she moved, the pain in her head sent them squeezing shut.
Holding the back of her head she gingerly made it to her feet. Finding the wall as she reached out in the darkness, Angie bumped into the ladder. Leaning against it, she waited until the throbbing ebbed before trying to climb the slippery rungs.
Angie feared falling again and stopped repeatedly to fight off the dizziness. It felt like it took forever to reach the doorway. After several tries to open the hatch, Angie put her full weight against it before finally dislodging the hatch door. She collapsed on the deck, exhausted by the effort.
Moaning, she struggled to sit up and face the night. A cool breeze came off the river helping to clear away the fog inside her head. Angela cringed over the mishap of falling, deciding she more than missed her dinner appointment.
She managed to standup, leaning against the boat for support, a strange steady vibration moved up her legs. For a second it confused her, but then she realized it was coming from the riverboat. Listening, she heard the swishing sound of the large wheel turning through the water. The movement of the boat was slight and sluggish, but unmistakable. “We’re moving! Oh no...”
How long had she been out?
Looking around her she failed to locate her purse, positive she left it beside the hatch. She tried to catch some light to see the time at her wrist, but strangely there wasn’t any light coming from the shoreline. Stumbling to the rail she scanned the dark line of trees along the riverbank. Wherever they were on the river was certainly a ways from New Orleans. Stars, she hoped this wasn’t an all night cruise.
She was dirty and bruised all over. The knot on the back of her head felt so tender it hurt when she walked. Looking around the deck she couldn’t think past the throbbing to figure out what bothered her about it.
She tried to push her hair back and she realized she’d lost the clip holding her bangs. She’d be damned if she would go back down there and look for it. “One fall a night is enough, thank you.”
With the rail’s support Angela decided she better find the captain or manager, someone that could help her. She didn’t think they would turn back just for her, but maybe they could radio shore so her Aunt Belle and Sally wouldn’t worry. “Damn! I didn’t even tell them where I was going.”
She could see it all now. Auntie would call the police within an hour of her missed dinner appointment. They would find her car on the docks, of all places. Auntie would go into vapors. Well, she couldn’t do anything about it until she found someone.
The music and muffled voices drew her forward. It sounded familiar; she remembered feeling this way when she entered the room this afternoon. It seemed the Silver Queen was all she’d imagined it would be.
His blue eyes seemed to find her of their own accord. Framed in the doorway was something he never saw aboard Captain Welsh’s boat. Funny, but even after his initial shock over seeing the woman’s reflection in the mirror, he couldn’t stop looking at her.
Wild dark locks of ebony hair floated around the woman like a protective cloak. They did little to hide the lovely creature behind the veil. Looking closer, James also saw the dirt smudged across her cheek and forehead. Sucking in his breath over what his scrutiny uncovered, anger and concern flared in unwanted quantities for the pain and confusion marring her lovely face. James tried to pull his eyes away, but she seemed to hold him in the most peculiar way.
Maybe it was the outlandish attire she wore? It wasn’t everyday you saw a woman dressed like a man; an Indian one at that if those boots were any indication. Eyes the color of emeralds, they weren’t Indian and neither was that ivory complexion.
James felt the strangest chill move over him. She was undoubtedly beautiful, statuesque, and yet too vulnerable as her brilliant eyes searched the room. For just a second they seemed to latch onto his, making him feel like she physically touched him or something more. But they pulled away too quickly to discover the answer.
Angie wondered what it was about the room that made her uneasy. Things came too slowly past the pain assaulting her head. Just as lethargic were the eyes turning in her direction. Even the murmurs ended as an uncomfortable silence fell over everyone. No, that wasn’t right…every man, there were no women, anywhere!
Angie swallowed hard over the ill feeling this gave her as she unconsciously raised her chin against their probing gazes. She tried to think past the foreboding she felt, but it became increasingly difficult. She wanted to tell them how rude their observations were, yet thought better of it.
Seeing no one standing about that looked in charge, her gaze finally went to the bar. Having so many men in one room must have addled her, because she could swear the room looked different. Taking a deep breath she forced her unsteady legs to walk towards the bar. She could feel their eyes following her. It took all her control not to turn and glare back at them.
She came hard against the bar and held it to fight the dizziness plaguing her. Afraid to look at any of the men leaning there, she tried to concentrate on only the young bartender and forming her words. “Excuse me? I need to see the captain or manager, please.”
What was wrong with them? The buzz immediately following her announcement made her knuckles whiten in apprehension.
“Can I help you?”
The effort to turn and see the man who owned the deep decisive voice nearly defeated her. When she faced him his eyes stole the last of her breath.
How long she looked at him she didn’t know or care. Shaking away the volatile feelings she brought her thoughts back to the here and now. But stars how he seemed to fill her mind.
He was so...devastatingly handsome!
Stars, but that hit on her head must have rattled her common sense. What was the matter with her? She never let any man affect her like this and certainly not a stranger. “Are you the captain?”
His smile could melt ice, but it was the questioning in his cool gaze that captured her attention, making it hard to concentrate on his answer.
“No, but are you sure it is the captain you want to see?”
“Well yes, I think so, unless there is a manager around.”
Why had he approached her? Knowing every man in the room was glaring bug eyed at them James sure wasn’t paying any attention to the warnings. She was trouble he didn’t need. “Willie, go fetch Captain Welsh.”
“You sure about that Mr. McFarlain? You know he ain’t going to like this none.”
She listened to the conversation that concerned her yet seemed to be ignoring her presence. Angie hurt too much to care what these men thought. “Look, I need to get to shore or radio the authorities.”
One of the men snickered. James watched the lady’s pride spark over the insulting remarks bouncing about the room. He couldn’t control his admiration when she refused to don the insults with even a reproachful glance.
“Miss?”
“Miss La Cross.”
“Well Miss La Cross, I think the captain will be more than happy to oblige your request.”
“Good.”
She watched the man give a silent signal to the young man behind the bar, sending him out from under it to do as she requested.
“Thank you...McFarlain, isn’t it?”
“Yes.”
Angie felt better knowing the captain was coming. She couldn’t shake the growing nervousness over these men and their apt attention on her. Chancing a look about the room, not a one of them resumed their game seeming to think she was more interesting. She actually thought a few of the glaring eyes held expectancy in them. “Hey, what’s wrong with them?”
“Wrong, Miss La Cross?”
Moving closer to him, she whispered. “Why are they watching me? I didn’t mean to interrupt anything. If it’s a stag party or something like that, I am sorry.”
James couldn’t stop looking at her. She made less sense than he felt his actions did. He didn’t like the men’s gazes anymore than she did. Something compelled him to try and ease her concerns.
“You are a rarity on Captain Welsh’s boat.”
“A rarity? In what way?”
Was that innocent look in those green eyes as real as it appeared?
“You are a woman.”
Her laughter died beneath the unwavering look of concern he held her in. He was serious and Angie felt herself become cold over the implied danger. She would have left, right then, if the dizziness hadn’t returned when she tried to move.
The strength in the hands holding her up became all too clear, tearing through her muddled thoughts.
“Miss La Cross are you alright?”
“My head, I fell.”
When his fingers glanced over the bump at the back of her head, she groaned and fell against him. Righting herself wasn’t possible. Finding the will to leave what she found in his hold defeated her efforts. Closing her eyes she told herself it would only be for a minute, just a minute. There was so much strength...and safety.
James’ hands seemed to move on their own, retaining the embrace she didn’t end and he couldn’t. God, she was so soft, so very nice. He couldn’t stop himself from touching her and allowing the wild hunger loose that holding her drove to the surface.
Shaking himself, his eyes registered the tight lipped anger and wanting his present stance brought out in his staring companions. Swallowing his groan of awareness, James needed to get a hold of himself. What the hell was he trying to do? Commit suicide? Before he could disengage her he heard the gruff astonishment of the Captain coming up behind him.
“What the hell do you think you are doing, McFarlain? Damn, you know my rules and the consequences!”
He lost his concentration to her fingers digging into his sleeve. Her silent fear was unmistakable. The distraction proved to be his downfall.
He felt the hands relieving him of his gun, just before two pairs enclosed about his arms. She remained in his hold. It was the Captain’s fingers that came around in front of them to dislodge her.
“Release the harlot this instant McFarlain!”
James’ dislike for the man seemed to fuel his irrational behavior towards the woman. Mike and the two thousand head of cattle were forgotten. “I’d love to, but she is hurt.”
The scoffs came from the room and James felt the dread close over him. A few well placed calls from the men reddened the Captain’s enraged face.
“Look Welsh, I don’t….”
“Save it McFarlain, your gentlemanly charms won’t get you out of this.”
Angie couldn’t stop her shiver. Every spoken word made them worse. She should move away from the man whose arms supported her. Why were they mad at them? At him? She could understand the captain being upset over having an unwanted passenger. But why take it out on Mr. McFarlain?
Calling on her remaining strength she pushed away from him and looked into the angry glare of his eyes. Was it her or the captain that lit that fire? His face was like stone, showing nothing of the turmoil she felt in the hands still holding her arms. His eyes held the graying of the storm she sensed, making her shake her head in denial, only to realize her mistake too late.
His hold tightened over her renewed weakness, refusing to obey the Captain’s ravings. Pulling her back against his chest was the worse thing James could do. No one wanted to believe he didn’t know her. James saw this too often; they were now the night’s entertainment. An example for the Captain, not to be dismissed until tried and convicted.
Rage engulfed him over what he knew was coming. Thoughts of fighting his way out ended as quickly as they surfaced. It would mean leaving Miss La Cross to face these men, alone. He couldn’t bring himself to do that to her. Neither would he release her to the furious man reaching out to pull her away.
“Keep your hands off her, Welsh!”
It was a foolish threat considering he was unarmed and held by two oversized goons. But the captain took the danger glaring at him at face value and stopped his advance.
Cautiously eyeing James, “Then you admit it?”
What was he saying? Admit what? Angie must have missed something. This had gone far enough she needed to get a hold of herself. She managed to push herself away from McFarlain to face the captain.
James watched the girl that disengaged his hold. She swayed, but he forced himself not to reach for her. Her eyes stayed him from helping. A daring mix of pride and stubbornness held her up. James felt something swell inside him for this woman, something he couldn’t define, but had to accept.
“Captain, I believe?”
“You know damn well I am!”
“There is no need to get excited.”
James’ humor nearly broke free. Her indignation was sending Welsh into a huffing fit.
“You insolent….”
“Welsh, I wouldn’t.” James’ voice was low and controlled, but it was a warning that silenced the room.
Angie didn’t dare look at the man standing close enough behind her that she could feel his heat. Whatever they all saw in McFarlain she cared only for the relief she felt that it kept this bull of a captain away from her.
“Look Captain, I think you have misunderstood. I’m sorry if you find my presence on your boat upsetting, but I can assure you it wasn’t intentional.” She didn’t like the way he was gloating at her. When he crossed his arms over his bloated stomach, straining the brass buttons of his uniform, she bit the inside of her cheek not to groan.
“So your presence wasn’t meant to be found out, hey?”
“No...I meant, I didn’t plan to be here at all. I fell down your ladder, and I guess I knocked myself out. Could you please contact the authorities, my aunt…?”
“The only authority around here is me and believe me, missy, you’ve made contact.”
Why didn’t that make her feel any better? He certainly wasn’t what she expected and he’d not get any booking for the party with this kind of insolent attitude. If his eyes raked over her breasts one more time, she...she’d slap him, that’s what she’d do!
“The name is Miss La Cross. Now, would you please radio the authorities and let them know where I can be picked up.”
James hadn’t heard a Creole accent like that since leaving New Orleans. The lyrical tones almost made him miss Welsh’s reply.
“Now, Miss La Cross, I’d be obliged to accommodate you if I had such a thing...what was it? A raydee-oh?”
She ignored his sarcastic use of her name. “Then just let me off at the next port.”
James tensed over what he felt was coming, which caused the brutes holding him to secure their hold more.
“I’d be glad to, only we’ve some unfinished business to attend to first.”
She wanted to ask what, but the whooping and hollering rushing through the room drowned out her voice. Clamping her mouth shut, she couldn’t stop herself from turning to Mr. McFarlain for answers.
“Oh my stars!” Angie felt what little color she possessed drain away. Her anger surged over what she stared open mouthed upon.
“Miss La Cross, I think it would be best if you didn’t say anything else.” James didn’t think the woman would listen to his request.
Spinning back to confront the captain, she gripped the bar in order not to fall. Ignoring McFarlain’s warning her angry words were forced past clenched teeth. “What is the meaning of this? Release Mr. McFarlain!”
She was shaking under the shock of seeing him held by those men and a knife pressed to his throat! How dare they do that to him!
“Missy, I have every intention of doing just that, but first.” She wanted to disappear from the sneer he gave her. “Men gather round.”
Looking from him, back to McFarlain and the stern uneasy look he gave her did indeed shut her up. McFarlain’s eyes conveyed the message that she only made it worse. The knife pressing close to his jugular vein wasn’t a joke. Angie tasted the bitterness of true fear.
“Now you all know my rules about women on board my vessel.” Looking directly at her, “They are not allowed and the punishment is severe.”
His speech was hilarious, Angie felt like she was in some corny movie. Opening her mouth, she snapped it shut when McFarlain’s strained curse reached her ears.
Glaring at him under the circumstances would be silly, but she was getting angrier by the second. Instead, she directed her tempered glare at the captain. Ugh, but she wanted to smack that satisfied grin off his pug face. Who did he think he was, anyway? She’d sue him for falling on his unattended vessel! Physical trauma, yeah, she probably suffered a concussion. Mental anguish was a certainty.
Building up her nerve to verbally attack the man, the tirade froze in her throat over his next announcement.
“Men, we have a wedding to perform.”
“Wedding?” Her outburst drew everyone’s humorous glances.
“Why yes, Miss La Cross...your wedding.”
The men’s laughter echoed through her head like a bad dream. He grabbed her arm and made her follow the men leading McFarlain outside.
To his credit McFarlain put up a valiant struggle. To her dismay, he received a vicious blow to his jaw for his effort. If he got loose the rage burning inside that man wouldn’t have stopped until these men were desecrated. Abhorring violence she couldn’t believe she was actually wishing he would break free.
Angie swallowed back her cry over what his hard blue eyes told her. This wasn’t a joke. These men were serious. They all had to be nuts!
All kinds of crazy thoughts careened through the intense pain that each dragged step sent off in her head.
James never took his eyes off her. When she stumbled he’d gone wild. The anger over seeing her in pain took over. The ache in his jaw snapped him back into some resemblance of sanity, but the fury inside him was near uncontrollable.
If only she’d keep quiet. He feared what they might do to her if she continued. It was obvious she had no idea of the dangerous extent of her situation. Welsh could be a vicious man. He relished the attention he was getting and it made him unpredictable. James wasn’t in any position to help either of them. Getting her away from these men was imperative. James didn’t like the ugly way the crowd was turning or the looks in their eyes for her. She didn’t realize what he was seeing and he hoped she wouldn’t, fearing what she might do.
When they placed her beside him he took the chance to whisper to her. “Just do what he wants and agree with whatever I say.”
Angie’s eyes enlarged over McFarlain’s request. Was he crazy too? Didn’t he hear what the captain was up to?
She wanted to ask him, but the captain didn’t give her a chance.
“Now, I have here the bible and as captain I have legal authority to wed these two. It’s legal, you will be husband and wife. What better match, right boys?”
The cheers sent chills up her spine.
“Now, James McFarlain do you take Miss...what’s your first name?”
Glaring at him she had a good mind not to answer. Scanning the sea of expectant faces her pride stiffened. “Angela.”
“James McFarlain, do you take Angela La Cross as your lawful wedded wife?”
Not looking at him she held her breath with the expectancy she felt over his answer. Why should she care?
“I do.”
The captain chuckled over the angry outburst everyone knew McFarlain wanted to lash out with.
“And you, Angela La Cross, do you take this man as your husband?”
“What? No love, honor and obey?” Her indignation made her antagonize the man.
“Throw in obey would you Welsh, I think I’ll need that one.”
Glaring up at McFarlain she didn’t know with whom she was angrier. The captain repeated the vow, tossing in obey at McFarlain’s request.
“Well, we’re waiting, get to it Missy.”
Angel didn’t need the obnoxious captain to tell her what he expected. “You can wait till....”
“Angela come on, it’s not like we’re strangers.”
Her mouth dropped open over James’ remark. She closed it when his hard gaze didn’t reflect anything close to what his words implied. Was he only saying this for their benefit?
Instinctively, she knew, he was the only one here she could trust. He didn’t want this any more than she did. Why should he? Remembering his warning she gave the only sensible answer. “I do.”
“Good, a wise decision Missy. I pronounce you, man and wife. You may kiss your bride, James.”
Before she could object McFarlain pulled her into his arms and captured her lips, smothering her protest in a kiss that did more than just silence her outrage. Too stunned to hide her response, she could only stare at him when he released her.
The cheers ended her short lived trance, but the shouts coming at them quickly made her seek the very man that just left her totally rattled. Moving to McFarlain’s side she released her breath when his arm came about her waist. “Alright Welsh, you’ve had your fun.”
“Not quite James. You never should have crossed me. Your marriage papers will be filed in St. Louis. You can pick your gear up there.”
James had been afraid Welsh would do this. Right now, seeing the eager men surrounding them, it was probably the best way out for her.
“Now James.”
“Can I have my gun?”
“Sure. Boys, give the man his gun.”
She watched, too confused to do anything else, as the man passed the captain McFarlain’s gun. The captain emptied the filled chambers of the bullets. Staring, she watched the bullets hit and roll across the deck before he passed the gun over to McFarlain.
Starting to move away, James stopped and came back to her. Taking her arm, “Come on Angela.”
Pulling her arm out of his grip, she stared at him in disbelief finally understanding what they all expected.
“No...you are all crazy.” The shaking of her head wasn’t anything compared to what her knees were doing. “No, I am not going into that River!”
 

CHAPTER 2

Muddy Waters
 
The water washed over her head, drowning out her screams as they entered the rushing current. It was his hand, wrapped in her hair that pulled her gasping to the surface.
“Hold on to my belt!”
The current was too strong to argue. They were caught in its drowning flow. Angie gripped the belt where his hand placed hers, she could barely keep her face out of the water continually sucking her down. Her moan over the pain in her head became lost beneath the wild roar of rushing water.
“Kick with all you’ve got! Come on, we can make it.”
Automatically she did what he wanted. All the while the word obey rang in her mind. Anger over what they’d done to them made her fight the sluggish haze trying to capture her. She felt the heavy weight of her sweater pulling her down, making her struggle for its release. She worked it off with the only remaining hold at her wrist where she held onto his belt. The strain was taking its toll, she must get rid of the sweater or loose the battle.
Kicking harder, she struggled to get close enough to switch hands on the belt. When she reached to change her hold something hit her legs, pulling and catching them. The exchange never happened. Angie lost him in the current.
James spun about over the sudden release of her weight. She was no where in sight. “Angela! Damn it woman, where are you?”
Trying to keep above the water she called out to answer, swallowing the mud laced river water in the process.
Letting himself go with the current he saw her arms thrashing before they disappeared beneath the surface. Swimming to the spot, he reached out touching something soft. Latching on to it James pulled her up against him, he held her limp body as he strained to get them to the shore.
When his feet touched the muddy bottom he dragged them both up onto the bank before collapsing beside her. Gulping down air he fought his exhaustion. Moving over her, he rolled her onto her back.
“Come on....” He watched. Placing his hand over her chest, he practically shouted when he felt her take a shattering breath. Holding her until she coughed up the water James fell back with her across his chest.
~*~
Angie fought waking; the dream far too real. The brightness intruded as she fought off the memories, all but those of him. His image brought on a storm of emotions. The remembered kiss they shared overwhelmed Angie’s senses.
James wondered when she would finally open her eyes. The memory he held of them couldn’t compare to the very real fresh green in their depths. Like a meadow caught in spring, life glowed in her eyes.
His fingers stroked the satin strands falling down her back. He held her all night. Waking long before dawn, he’d refused to stir wanting to experience the feel of her against him. It wasn’t a liberty he felt she’d allow once fully awake. After the night they’d been through it seemed only right to hold her. The bump on the back of her head went down some. The feel of her bare arms…he couldn’t get enough of how she felt.
He almost regretted that the sun rose when she started to wake. But then, he was anxious to see what her reaction would be. Remembering how he’d kissed her peaked his curiosity, she’d drawn more emotions out of him than he’d felt in ten years. James thought a lot about that revelation. He’d changed too much since the war. Last night he’d felt alive. After the shocking admission he found he liked what was happening to him.
Angela. Was she an angel? It was a silly thought, but it stayed with him all night. When her hands started to move over him, his own tightened to hold on to what they found.
Angie’s head shot up causing her to cry out over the pain. She closed her eyes to the sensations, she didn’t want to know if what they said were true. She slowly opened her eyes and let his image rushed in, with it came the panic. “Oh no....”
“Good morning.”
Biting her lip, she couldn’t believe this. “Oh no...”
“You said that.”
“It happened. Didn’t it?”
“ ‘fraid so…Mrs. McFarlain.”
Her eyes blazed in disbelief as she shoved herself off of him, earning James’ smile before he eased himself up before her. Oh yes, she was going to be in one hell of a state. As he’d discovered during the night she lost nearly all her covering. Standing before him, with her hands on her hips, what he saw left little to the imagination. The material stretched across her breast was like a transparent skin.
He decided to enjoy every lovely curve and luscious mound exhibited, at least until she realized how much was on display. Even the ridiculous mud caked pants she wore were enticing. The way they hugged her shape so tightly did unthinkable things to his male physique. His questions for her were piling up, but they could wait.
James took his gun out of the holster, the act sent her stumbling back. He chose to ignore her reaction as he blew out the empty cylinders. “Are you hungry?”
She was, but looking around she wondered where he expected to eat. There wasn’t a building to be seen.
“Well I am. Why don’t you take care of…whatever, while I rustle up something edible.” He tossed her the matches from his pocket. “They should be dry, if not, lay them out so the sun hits them. Can you build a fire?”
“Of course.” She wanted to groan over the defensive feelings he immediately called to life.
“Give it a try.”
Too confused to mouth the questions she wanted, she watched him take off into the woods. By the time she realized he actually left her alone it was too late to call him back. Turning around, all she saw were more woods and the river. Shivering at the memory of the muddy water she quickly busied herself.
Angela’s frown deepened, the tips of the matches were damp. Locating a flat rock she laid them out like little soldiers to dry. The dampness in her boots finally penetrated her thoughts and she pulled them off, putting them over a thick branch with the hope they too would air out.
The loss of her sweater made her angry. “Those creeps.”
Almost drowning and finding herself stranded with Mr. Macho made her scoff at the possible disasters that might rise up to smite her. Wondering how far it was to the nearest town made her fingers gingerly touch the knot on her head.
Angie told herself that worrying over it wouldn’t change what happened. She needed to do something and started to gather the wood and build it up for a fire. “Can I build a fire…his mother is probably still on the farm!” Standing back she surveyed her handiwork then tried the matches until one finally caught. Once the fire got going she started to panic over the blaze she’d created. “All I need to do is start a forest fire.”
“We could always jump in the river again.”
Startled by his voice she jumped, but when her eyes saw what was hanging from his hand, “You killed a rabbit!”
“I couldn’t find a bear.”
Grimacing, she avoided him and the dead animal.
James hid his humor over her reaction, but he wondered how she lived. She obviously wasn’t used to fending for herself. “Where are you from Angela?”
She refused to face him over his question because of what she might see, she kept her attention on the river and answered. “New Orleans, actually outside in Clayton. Do you know how far we are from there?”
He would have been surprised if she hadn’t been from there with that accent. It did get heavier when her anger rose to the surface. She was a long way from home. “We were only a few hours from docking in St. Louis. Walking, I’d say it will probably take us a full day to get there.”
Spinning about she completely forgot about the poor dead bunny his attention was centered on. “St. Louis! No way, you must be wrong.”
Placing the skewed rabbit over the coals, James tried to retain his patience over her outburst. “We will be in St. Louis by morning, sooner if we can catch a ride on the river.”
The finality in his tone stopped all the arguments she wanted to voice. But how?
“What’s wrong?”
“I…I guess I must have been unconscious longer than I realized. But that can’t be right either, I mean it would have taken the Silver Queen days to get this far.”
“Weeks.”
“What?”
“I takes her weeks to come up river fighting the current.”
He seemed so sure Angie didn’t know what to say. Things about last night she hadn’t wanted to acknowledge started coming back. All those men...and the Silver Queen...it was different. What was it she’d seen? Trying to remember made her headache return. The uneasy thoughts made her eyes skip to him. Thankfully he was busy with their breakfast and didn’t see her wary scrutiny.
Ignoring the dried mud on his clothes, the dark tailored suit wasn’t noticeably different, unless one looked closer. It was the cut. Fitted down to his firm waist, the coat’s bottom flared out in a long, rather unusual style. The vest was a fancy thing with its silver brocade design over the once white silk shirt. Even the thin tie was different.
But she knew it was the holster, slung low about his waist that held her curiosity. She remembered that the other men wore guns as well, some were double holsters.
Angie didn’t like the strange thoughts coming to her concerning the reason for such open firearms. The way he wore it, strapped tightly to his muscled thigh, stopping just above the high black boots. He didn’t carry it for show. No, this McFarlain knew how to use it.
Shaken by the truth she forced her eyes away. They came to rest on the thick brown hair. Before their dive into the river she remembered he had been wearing a black Stetson with a silver band. Didn’t gamblers once wear fancy garb like his? Was he? For some reason she didn’t ask, it didn’t seem important. Several of the men last night wore similar rakish outfits. And there were the moustaches. McFarlain’s was long on the sides, as were his side burns that jutted out onto his cheeks. On him it was a very attractive style, even if it was outrageously old fashion.
Aware of her intense study of him, James decided not to interrupt her. Was she as fascinated about him as he was of her? Some of the things she said last night came back to him. “What was it you wanted the captain to call the authorities on?”
“A radio?”
“Yes, that was it. What is it?”
Sucking in her breath, she couldn’t answer. She didn’t like the question his raised.
“Angela?”
“Its Angie, everyone calls me, Angie.”
She didn’t seem to notice his eyes on her. James didn’t like the far away look her misty green eyes held him in.
“Let’s eat, we have a long walk ahead of us.”
They ate in silence and he was surprised she didn’t complain about eating the rabbit that upset her so openly. Something was going on inside that lovely head of hers that made him worry.
Scattering the ashes he watched her move as if oblivious to his presence while putting on her boots. Taking off his jacket he went over and placed it around her shoulders. She moved freely about him and didn’t seem at all self-conscience about her lack of proper attire.
“You might get a sunburn, keep it.”
Slipping her arm into the long sleeves she rolled them up to her elbows. “Thank you.”
He didn’t answer, just moved off and Angie followed in silence still deep within her own troubled thoughts. Once she wondered why she followed him, but dismissed the question, the others flooding her senses held more importance.
Time seemed immaterial as they followed the riverbank. They came upon a large patch of raspberries. Eating all they could, McFarlain tore off a section of his shirttail to hold a store of them for later.
It wasn’t until they walked some distance from the berry patch that Angie stopped cold. Turning, she looked back unable to see where they found them.
“Something wrong?”
“We just ate raspberries!”
His broad shoulders straightened in warning.
“But...” Her troubled eyes came back to meet his. Searching the electric blue depths she didn’t know what she expected to find. She was acting weird and felt his awareness, but the crazy thoughts wouldn’t stop.
“Angela?”
“There aren’t any berries in February.”
Only the nerve above his left eye flinched. His control was superb, but she knew that was exactly what it was...control.
“It’s not February, is it?”
Answering her proved difficult when she looked so scared. James couldn’t imagine what caused this reaction. She hadn’t even brought up last night, the ceremony, nothing! Now this.
“Please tell me. What month is it?”
“August. August twenty-second.”
Holding herself, she forced the next question out past the quivering in her lips. “The year, what year is it?”
He answered very slowly. “1875.”
She wouldn’t faint. His eyes were trying to penetrate to her very soul making it extremely difficult to hold herself together. She didn’t want to listen to anything more...it was impossible!
“Angela?”
“I’m fine, I...that fall really did a number on me. I guess I’m just disorientated. It should pass.”
Her excuse came too quick and given in the fear he glimpsed in her eyes. James didn’t think forcing her to tell him what was wrong would work. He took her hand and he led them on.
Angie didn’t object to his hold, she needed the strange reassurance it gave to her. Chancing a glance at him, his proud features looked so strong, she tried to gather strength from him and not think anymore over the unsettling fears. Instead she concentrated on last night’s events.
McFarlain hadn’t brought it up and she couldn’t make herself do it. No, she couldn’t deal with any of that now. Once they reached St. Louis...or wherever he took her, she’d get a message to Aunt Belle and Sally. They would know what to do. Angie was incapable of thinking straight. Maybe it was all a bad dream. She didn’t want to hear the facts that said she’d already slept and was still in this mess.
James’ own thoughts were as troubled as the girl’s beside him. Why did the date upset her so? He didn’t believe for a moment that the bump on her head caused this reaction. Troubled by what he couldn’t understand his concentration remained on her and what he was going to do with her.
The marriage was a farce, no matter what Welsh did about filing the papers. But James knew he couldn’t just walk away once they reached civilization. Why should he suddenly be filled with compassion for the woman? His thoughts only left him more confused. The fact she failed to acknowledge their marriage bothered him no end. He’d have to get her home, back to New Orleans. She mentioned an Aunt; at least she had family.
For someone that didn’t want to get involved, he felt up to his neck in trouble. He had a wife he held no claim on and to top it off he couldn’t make himself leave it at that.
~*~
The craft moved steadily up the river, but Angie barely took notice of the passing scenery. McFarlain called it luck when the barge came into view on the river. He’d hailed them down. The man and his young son were more than willing to take them the rest of the way.
He’d left her alone, seeming to understand she needed to think. Angie took in every nuance of these, two new people. What she saw made her more frightened than she wanted to admit. Anxious to reach St. Louis Angie hoped she would find some answers.
“Captain Beck sent these for you.”
Sitting down beside her, James passed her the biscuit and ham slice, which ended up sitting in her lap.
“When will we get there?”
“Before nightfall.” She didn’t look at him and he wanted to make her. “Angela, we need to discuss some things.”
Sighing, she realized it had finally come. Scooting back so she could face him, she told herself not to show him anything, no matter what happened. Even in their short time together she came to rely on him too much. The thought of not having him around to help her face what she feared made her stomach wretch. He’d done more than most men would under the circumstances and she couldn’t fault him.
“You never told me what a radio is?”
Raising her eyes from her lap, it was the last thing she expected to hear. Relief and curiosity over his reaction made her decide to tell him. “It is a machine that sends out sound waves and transmits voices or messages across the air to another machine called a receiver.”
He accepted her explanation. “Sounds like a telegraph.”
“Only there are no wires.” He was good. It must be all the card games she believed he played, he hardly blinked. All but that tiny nerve jumping over his eye, it was a dead giveaway.
“It must be quite new, I haven’t heard of it.”
“Captain Welsh obviously hadn’t.” She wasn’t ready to take this any further.
“That man only sees trouble.”
“It’s not real...what he did. I mean you don’t have to worry, I don’t expect you to be held by it or anything.”
Why did her declaration send a spark of anger off inside of him? His thoughts fell right in line with hers. Damn it, what was wrong with him!
“Right, but Angela, I can’t just let you...” Go out of my life? She’d think him crazy to say something like that.
Discovering what lay behind those crystal blue eyes wasn’t possible. She wanted to reach out and brush that stray lock of hair back from his tanned brow. Instead she pulled his coat tighter about her.
“I’ll see you have passage back to New Orleans. You have an Aunt there?”
“Yes.” She prayed she did. But Aunt Belle seemed far away. Blinking back the threatening tears she dropped her eyes, not wanting him to see her distress. When his finger came under her chin and forced her gaze back, she wanted to moan over the concern he held out for her to see.
“Angela don’t. Tell me what’s wrong?”
“I can’t.” Her heart wanted so to tell him. Confide in him about her fears, about what she believed just happened to her.
His anger over her refusal came with a strength that wouldn’t stay buried. “Alright, if you’re so stubborn, than I can be too. You’re wrong about the marriage, its legal and very binding. You are Mrs. James McFarlain!”
His unexpected anger sent her scooting back. “You aren’t serious?”
“Wrong, I am, and so are the laws on the subject. The Captain wasn’t lying. Once those papers are filed there is no way of changing them. He docked last night, I suspect our license was the first piece of business to be dealt with this morning.”
Leaning forward, he closed her open mouth. Whatever his reason for making such a ridiculous claim, it didn’t matter. James refused to take it back. The lady wasn’t going anywhere!
“But that’s absurd, we were forced into saying those vows. Why, he didn’t even read from the bible.”
“It doesn’t matter.”
Rising before he could stop her, she glared down at him, pinning him with her flaming green glare. He hadn’t seen so much life in her and he loved it! He sensed she’d been hiding all this spunk.
“There you are wrong, it matters a whole hell of a lot! When I marry a man, it will be done properly, in a church. Not by some lunatic Captain that probably can’t read!”
When he stood up he towered over her, but it didn’t matter, the lady was on a roll. Her finger came up and poked at his chest. “And you...why you have no claim on me what so ever! And you know it! I’m not your wife and you can’t change that, no matter what the laws say.”
His deep broad smile was disarming, halting her tirade and her finger. He moved too quickly, taking her hands and wrapping them around her back, then yanking her against him.
“You are wrong...Mrs. McFarlain. We spent the night in each other’s arms.” His breath fanned her flushed face.
&am

Excerpt


RIVERBOATS & RAINBOWS

Timeless Loves Series
by
Jewel Adams
Historical Adult Romance Time Travel
The renovated riverboat appears to be the perfect solution for her aunt's annual fundraiser. Angela La Cross' busy agenda didn't include falling into the boat's hold. When she comes to and finds she is the only woman on a boat full of men, she begins to think this wasn't such a good idea.
James McFarlain wanted his last trip up the Mississippi to be uneventful. The last thing he expected to see on the Silver Queen was a woman. Telling himself she was nothing but a mess of trouble didn't stop him from looking into her emerald eyes. When she silently sought his help, James knew he was done for.
Her trip back in time to 1875 became only a minor set back for Angie when compared to a good looking cowboy, cattle rustlers and one very determined Sioux warrior.
Angela might survive her tumble through time, but can her heart decide between the love of two men? Can she find the answers before time runs out? Her journey is not an easy one when love keeps changing the rules. Join Angie in the adventure of a lifetime, one that will capture your heart!
 

Published by JA Creations

Copyright © 2013 Jewel Adams
All Right Reserved
 
Names, characters and incidents depicted in this book are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental and beyond the intent of the author or the publisher. This is a work of historical fiction and as such word usage, grammar and spelling can be depicted of the setting and should not be confused with current word usage, grammar and spelling.
No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
Electronic formats are numerous for the variety of readers now available. Due to the different formats there can be problems with fonts, spacing and words. Please realize the novel is edited and copy edited, and that these types of errors can happen after the fact.
 
Credits
Cover Artist: Beverly Haynes
Editor: Juliette Ashton
 
 
 

WHAT THEY ARE SAYING ABOUT

RIVERBOATS AND RAINBOWS

 
5 Hearts – The Romance Studio - Riverboats and Rainbows is a wonderful book. The triangle between the hearts adds quite a twist to the plot that skillfully takes you through passion, love and anguish.
Reviewer: Angie
 
5! Love Romances- Even for those who are not fans of time travels and westerns, Riverboats and Rainbows is a “do not miss” story. The complexities of the characters as they grow and move through the story will stay with the reader long after the story ends.
Reviewer: Gina
 
 
RIVERBOATS & RAINBOWS
 

Prologue

 

“Angie, what about a carnival, we could sell tickets and...”
“We’d never break even. Besides, Clayton already has a carnival in the fall. No, it has to be something different…unique.”
Shuffling through the fliers and brochures on her desk, she felt like pitching them in the trash. Why in heaven’s name did she agree to run this year’s Charity Drive? Because Auntie Belle wanted it, that’s why!
Isabelle La Cross was the most infuriating lady in town. She may be her only living relative, but Angie could scream over the woman’s manipulation, especially when she used it against her own niece. If she weren’t so darn lovable, Angie would tell the lady exactly what she could do with her good neighbor crusades.
“Look Sally, I’ve got an appointment at two, why don’t you take these and see what you can find. How about dinner at Rico’s, say at six? We can discuss it then. Maybe something will come to me by then.”
“And what should I tell, you know who, when she calls?”
“Tell my dear aunt I am working on it.” Under her breath, “If she gripes she can have the whole works back!”
“Now I could never say that to her, she’s too sweet.”
“Sweet?” Angie just glared at her friend as she sashayed out of Angie’s office. Sally knew exactly how to get to her. Falling back into the chair, the pencil started an impatient rhythm against the desk.
“Come on Angie think of something.”
As much as she was furious with her Aunt Belle for volunteering her, Angie acknowledged she wanted to do the best possible job. She’d just have to rearrange her schedule. La Cross Decorating took off this last year, what with the influx of new office buildings. At first, listening to Aunt Belle and locating the decorating firm in Clayton over New Orleans appeared to have been a terrible decision. Now, she actually employed staff besides her childhood friend, Sally.
Sally was everything to La Cross, without her Angie wouldn’t have been able to hold it together. If she landed this account, she would give her friend a well deserved bonus. “Time is running out.”
Spying the wall clock so was the day; if she didn’t hurry she would miss her luncheon appointment. Gathering her portfolio she rushed out of the office. As she passed Sally’s desk, “I’m late, if Mr. Greeley calls tell him I am on my way. I’ll see you at Rico’s.”
“Right, six o’clock.” Motioning to the phone receiver she held. “Yes Miss La Cross, I’ll tell her.” Holding it out so the woman could hear, “Your aunt will be there as well.”
Groaning, Angie pushed through the glass door. “Great!”
The evening would be a disaster there was no way around it. Reaching the elevator she mentally clicked off the list of possibilities for the fundraiser. Maybe she should just do the same old routine, dinner and Ball, sell the outrageously priced tickets and be done with it.
~*~
Tossing her purse on the counter, Angie collapsed into the couch. “What a day!”
Tired, but in high spirits over landing Greeley’s account, there was still enough time to change and make it to New Orleans and back before dinner. The idea came to her after leaving the restaurant. A riverboat would be the perfect place to hold the fundraiser!
An old time paddlewheel floating down the Mississippi; they could have a casino and everything, right on the water. The patrons would love it. Somewhere she remembered reading about one, the Silver Queen. Yes, that was the name. An old water wheel renovated for parties and tours up and down the river.
Grabbing a change of jeans, one of her oversized sweaters and a tank top, she quickly headed for the shower.
It felt nice to be out of the strict business attire. Slipping on her fringed, soft leather boots, she pulled them up to her knees before running a brush through the thick, waist length waves of her hair. She clipped the long bangs back from her face, letting the mass hang freely down her back.
The breeze was brisk as she drove the little MG down the ramp and onto the river expressway. Hitting the scan button on the radio it stopped on a Cajun station. The haunting music soon eased away the day’s strain. It was only three o’clock and wonderful to be away from the office. Missing the rush traffic added to her pleasure, but she would have a heck of a time getting back to Rico’s on time.
Pulling into a parking spot on the crowded dock, Angie wasn’t sure where to go. She held her hand up to shade her eyes as she located the riverboat that seemed dwarfed by the larger barges and freight vessels dominating the waterways. Angie decided the walk up the wharf area would be invigorating, she left her car and headed out. More than one wolf whistle came from the decks above her, but she went on, ignoring the crude calls.
She stood before the wooden gangplank of the relic and took in the fresh coat of white paint on the spiraled rails. Gold accents flourished over the intricate moldings. In bright red letters Silver Queen raced across the bow. It was beautiful. Angie felt her enthusiasm mounting.
Holding the soft roped rail, she ascended onto the boat. No one greeted her arrival making her wonder if the boat was deserted. It seemed unlikely anyone would just go off and leave her unattended. “Hello! Is anyone on board?”
When no answer came she ventured further, curious about the accommodations. Sliding open the etched glass door, she entered what looked like an old gambling casino, complete with a long, highly polished, wooden bar. Crystal glassware hung from racks across the full mirror backed wall. Liquor bottles lined the shelves, casting their rich hues into rainbows of dancing colors.
The weirdest sensation washed over her, forcing her eyes shut. Sounds of tinkling music and laughter floated around her. The smell of heavy cigar smoke filled her nostrils. Blinking against her sudden nervousness, the sounds and blurred images faded as quickly as they appeared.
She told herself, atmosphere is everything! Angela shook off the lingering sensations. The boat reeked of the Old South. The guests would certainly feel its history, adding to the entertainment.
Without some information to take back to her Aunt all her plans would be much of nothing. Moving through the glittering room, past the felt tables and red velvet chairs, she decided to take her explorations further. Somewhere, someone must be around that could help her.
Gaining the outer walkway around the boat Angie looked back towards the monstrous wooden paddle wheel, she decided to try up towards the wheelhouse. The river always fascinated her and right now it was a marvelous sight seeing the dark muddy water racing past the low hull. Climbing the slanted rungs to the glassed in command center, she could see that no one was inside. The huge varnished wheel stood alone like a guard over the open decks below. The place glowed under pieces of brass equipment she couldn’t begin to name, all polished to a high sheen. Knowing it would be rude to enter, she only looked on with envy at the antiques. Brightly colored benches lined the lower deck. Large spyglasses were mounted on the rails for sightseeing.
Glancing at her watch she moaned over the time. Angie decided she better find someone in the next half-hour or be late. Aunt Belle would be in a state if she failed to be on time.
Making her way back down the ladder, she spotted an open door at the front of the wheelhouse on the main deck. Looking into the darkness, the steep ladder went down into what seemed like a bottomless hole. Hugging herself over the sudden chill that seized her she called out. “Hey, is anyone down there?”
A noise she couldn’t identify came in answer to her question.
“Damn.” Coming back any time soon, with everything going on, would be out of the question. She set her purse down on the wooden lid of the hatch. Angie needed both hands to maneuver on the ladder. Turning backwards, she gingerly felt with her foot until she located a rung. Holding the door molding Angie carefully started down the ladder.
It took a few minutes before her eyes adjusted to the darkness. She certainly hoped someone was down here and she wasn’t going into the damp recesses of this boat for nothing. Everywhere she touched felt clammy, making her shudder as she gripped another rung. She wished she could see the bottom.
It happened so fast, her foot lost its hold on the slippery wood! Groping out she failed to regain her hold. The dark void swallowed her scream as she fell back into nothingness. Landing hard against the bottom, Angie let the blessed blackness take away the sharp cutting pain in her head.
 

CHAPTER 1

The Ante
 
“Raise you a hundred Jamey.” The man’s enthusiasm flowed over the table to the unaffected player.
The strong, tanned fingers slowly unfolded the cards, fanning them out for his private scrutiny. A full house, which meant Duncan was probably acting. James played him many times on the circuit. Duncan could never hide his eagerness when he thought he had James beat. Tonight certainly wasn’t going James’ way. A full two rounds of the deal and he’d only taken one small hand.
Looking around at the other two players, he figured this pot was too rich for their blood. They’d fold on the raise leaving only Duncan and himself to bluff it out. Maybe he should call it a night? Damn, it was too early for that, but James knew when the luck wasn’t with him. “I’ll see your hundred Duncan, and raise you fifty.”
He watched Duncan’s face blotch in anger. As he expected the others threw their hands down in disgust. James waited for Duncan to get over what his cards told his tight-eyed stare.
“You’re a lucky ass hole, Jamey.” Duncan tossed the cards into the pot.
James pulled the money and cards over to him, showing little over the defamation thrown his way. Separating out the cards, he gathered the small winnings and pushed away from the table. “It’s been nice.”
“You calling it a night?”
James didn’t bother to answer. Duncan would relish starting a fight. Going over to the bar, James angled himself so he could see the entire room.
“What will it be Mr. McFarlain?”
“Scotch, Willie.”
“Yes sir.”
James saw the captain in the bar mirror as he entered the casino. Captain Welsh wasn’t to be taken lightly. The river was his domain and heaven help the bastard stupid enough to cross him. Welsh looked more disagreeable than usual. James cursed the fact this boat had been the only one available for the ride up river. If he wasn’t in such a hurry he would never have stepped foot on the Silver Queen.
“You still work’n the river, McFarlain?”
“Now where else would I be, Captain?”
“Thought you might have smartened up and gotten off by now.”
Off the river James’ business was his own. Gambling wouldn’t have entered his past life. But that was before the war and everything he’d known had been destroyed or taken away. “The river feels slow tonight.”
“You should be captaining the Silver Queen, you always did know more than most men working the tables. Heard once you had a big plantation, down by New Orleans.”
“Times change.” Sipping his drink, he didn’t mind the man’s probing. It was common knowledge who he used to be. What he would be was no one’s concern but his own.
“Out of luck tonight or are the tables too cheap for your liking?”
“Like I said, Captain, the river is slow.”
“Duncan seems to be having a good night.”
James’ blue eyes watched the players’ reflections in the mirror. He didn’t like the way Duncan’s group looked, but kept it to himself. It was his last trip up river and he didn’t need any trouble.
One of the crew called the Captain away. James motioned Willie to set up another drink. Anxious to be off the river James thought about the future, something he hadn’t done for some time.
Mike would be waiting for him in St. Louis. They would start the drive from there to take the cattle to Montana. His crystal blue eyes went deep in concentration over the ranch, Twin Creeks. He didn’t like admitting how much he counted on that unknown place.
When he won it off that man last year, he’d been madder than a rattler and ready to throw the deed away in the next hand just to be free of it. Why he’d pocketed the deed he couldn’t recall.
That night in his cabin, it fell out of his coat. Picking it up James took his first look at the document. It was all there, all legally his, because of one man’s foolish pride in a card game. James thought long and hard over the land he now held title to. Remorse or conscience made him seek out the man that next morning. Mr. Burr must have been on a road of self-destruction. He learned the man got into another card game after James left. In the process Burr picked a fight with the wrong man and got himself killed over a five-dollar pot.
Finding he couldn’t give the land back, James decided to investigate what he owned. Wiring a banker associate of his, he learned just about all he could without actually seeing the property. The reports said everything was in order with the deed and that Mr. Burr had no living relatives. The land and ranch were said to be in good shape, though neglected.
Locating his brother Michael proved more of an effort than finding out about Twin Creeks. Mike, like James, left New Orleans after the war and discovering their uncle sold their home to carpetbaggers. It was a blow neither brother took lightly. James turned to gambling because it was there and he proved to be good at it. Being cautious over his playing partners kept him alive. He hated his present life and Twin Creeks looked like the answer he’d been searching for. There were enough funds from his gambling takes to buy a large herd of cattle and the stores needed to start the ranch. Hopefully, what was left would keep them going until she started holding her own.
 He learned all he could about the territory and James decided to take one last gamble. The cattle would be their staple stock, but there were herds of wild horses free for the taking. He planned to do just that. The government was hungry for horses, good riding stock, and James intended on getting in on the contracts they were issuing. Purchasing the stallion cost a large chunk of their funds, but he needed a good bloodline to start the horse ranch Twin Creeks would someday become.
Mike hadn’t been idle since he’d seen him two years ago. Working as trail boss for various outfits he willingly joined James in the venture. Between them, they would rebuild what took their family generations to accomplish and loose overnight.
“Another, Mr. McFarlain?”
“One more, Willie.”
Home? It felt strange to call it that. Neither of them had seen it yet, but James felt anxious to get there.
~*~
In the thick darkness she wasn’t sure if her eyes were open. But when she moved, the pain in her head sent them squeezing shut.
Holding the back of her head she gingerly made it to her feet. Finding the wall as she reached out in the darkness, Angie bumped into the ladder. Leaning against it, she waited until the throbbing ebbed before trying to climb the slippery rungs.
Angie feared falling again and stopped repeatedly to fight off the dizziness. It felt like it took forever to reach the doorway. After several tries to open the hatch, Angie put her full weight against it before finally dislodging the hatch door. She collapsed on the deck, exhausted by the effort.
Moaning, she struggled to sit up and face the night. A cool breeze came off the river helping to clear away the fog inside her head. Angela cringed over the mishap of falling, deciding she more than missed her dinner appointment.
She managed to standup, leaning against the boat for support, a strange steady vibration moved up her legs. For a second it confused her, but then she realized it was coming from the riverboat. Listening, she heard the swishing sound of the large wheel turning through the water. The movement of the boat was slight and sluggish, but unmistakable. “We’re moving! Oh no...”
How long had she been out?
Looking around her she failed to locate her purse, positive she left it beside the hatch. She tried to catch some light to see the time at her wrist, but strangely there wasn’t any light coming from the shoreline. Stumbling to the rail she scanned the dark line of trees along the riverbank. Wherever they were on the river was certainly a ways from New Orleans. Stars, she hoped this wasn’t an all night cruise.
She was dirty and bruised all over. The knot on the back of her head felt so tender it hurt when she walked. Looking around the deck she couldn’t think past the throbbing to figure out what bothered her about it.
She tried to push her hair back and she realized she’d lost the clip holding her bangs. She’d be damned if she would go back down there and look for it. “One fall a night is enough, thank you.”
With the rail’s support Angela decided she better find the captain or manager, someone that could help her. She didn’t think they would turn back just for her, but maybe they could radio shore so her Aunt Belle and Sally wouldn’t worry. “Damn! I didn’t even tell them where I was going.”
She could see it all now. Auntie would call the police within an hour of her missed dinner appointment. They would find her car on the docks, of all places. Auntie would go into vapors. Well, she couldn’t do anything about it until she found someone.
The music and muffled voices drew her forward. It sounded familiar; she remembered feeling this way when she entered the room this afternoon. It seemed the Silver Queen was all she’d imagined it would be.
His blue eyes seemed to find her of their own accord. Framed in the doorway was something he never saw aboard Captain Welsh’s boat. Funny, but even after his initial shock over seeing the woman’s reflection in the mirror, he couldn’t stop looking at her.
Wild dark locks of ebony hair floated around the woman like a protective cloak. They did little to hide the lovely creature behind the veil. Looking closer, James also saw the dirt smudged across her cheek and forehead. Sucking in his breath over what his scrutiny uncovered, anger and concern flared in unwanted quantities for the pain and confusion marring her lovely face. James tried to pull his eyes away, but she seemed to hold him in the most peculiar way.
Maybe it was the outlandish attire she wore? It wasn’t everyday you saw a woman dressed like a man; an Indian one at that if those boots were any indication. Eyes the color of emeralds, they weren’t Indian and neither was that ivory complexion.
James felt the strangest chill move over him. She was undoubtedly beautiful, statuesque, and yet too vulnerable as her brilliant eyes searched the room. For just a second they seemed to latch onto his, making him feel like she physically touched him or something more. But they pulled away too quickly to discover the answer.
Angie wondered what it was about the room that made her uneasy. Things came too slowly past the pain assaulting her head. Just as lethargic were the eyes turning in her direction. Even the murmurs ended as an uncomfortable silence fell over everyone. No, that wasn’t right…every man, there were no women, anywhere!
Angie swallowed hard over the ill feeling this gave her as she unconsciously raised her chin against their probing gazes. She tried to think past the foreboding she felt, but it became increasingly difficult. She wanted to tell them how rude their observations were, yet thought better of it.
Seeing no one standing about that looked in charge, her gaze finally went to the bar. Having so many men in one room must have addled her, because she could swear the room looked different. Taking a deep breath she forced her unsteady legs to walk towards the bar. She could feel their eyes following her. It took all her control not to turn and glare back at them.
She came hard against the bar and held it to fight the dizziness plaguing her. Afraid to look at any of the men leaning there, she tried to concentrate on only the young bartender and forming her words. “Excuse me? I need to see the captain or manager, please.”
What was wrong with them? The buzz immediately following her announcement made her knuckles whiten in apprehension.
“Can I help you?”
The effort to turn and see the man who owned the deep decisive voice nearly defeated her. When she faced him his eyes stole the last of her breath.
How long she looked at him she didn’t know or care. Shaking away the volatile feelings she brought her thoughts back to the here and now. But stars how he seemed to fill her mind.
He was so...devastatingly handsome!
Stars, but that hit on her head must have rattled her common sense. What was the matter with her? She never let any man affect her like this and certainly not a stranger. “Are you the captain?”
His smile could melt ice, but it was the questioning in his cool gaze that captured her attention, making it hard to concentrate on his answer.
“No, but are you sure it is the captain you want to see?”
“Well yes, I think so, unless there is a manager around.”
Why had he approached her? Knowing every man in the room was glaring bug eyed at them James sure wasn’t paying any attention to the warnings. She was trouble he didn’t need. “Willie, go fetch Captain Welsh.”
“You sure about that Mr. McFarlain? You know he ain’t going to like this none.”
She listened to the conversation that concerned her yet seemed to be ignoring her presence. Angie hurt too much to care what these men thought. “Look, I need to get to shore or radio the authorities.”
One of the men snickered. James watched the lady’s pride spark over the insulting remarks bouncing about the room. He couldn’t control his admiration when she refused to don the insults with even a reproachful glance.
“Miss?”
“Miss La Cross.”
“Well Miss La Cross, I think the captain will be more than happy to oblige your request.”
“Good.”
She watched the man give a silent signal to the young man behind the bar, sending him out from under it to do as she requested.
“Thank you...McFarlain, isn’t it?”
“Yes.”
Angie felt better knowing the captain was coming. She couldn’t shake the growing nervousness over these men and their apt attention on her. Chancing a look about the room, not a one of them resumed their game seeming to think she was more interesting. She actually thought a few of the glaring eyes held expectancy in them. “Hey, what’s wrong with them?”
“Wrong, Miss La Cross?”
Moving closer to him, she whispered. “Why are they watching me? I didn’t mean to interrupt anything. If it’s a stag party or something like that, I am sorry.”
James couldn’t stop looking at her. She made less sense than he felt his actions did. He didn’t like the men’s gazes anymore than she did. Something compelled him to try and ease her concerns.
“You are a rarity on Captain Welsh’s boat.”
“A rarity? In what way?”
Was that innocent look in those green eyes as real as it appeared?
“You are a woman.”
Her laughter died beneath the unwavering look of concern he held her in. He was serious and Angie felt herself become cold over the implied danger. She would have left, right then, if the dizziness hadn’t returned when she tried to move.
The strength in the hands holding her up became all too clear, tearing through her muddled thoughts.
“Miss La Cross are you alright?”
“My head, I fell.”
When his fingers glanced over the bump at the back of her head, she groaned and fell against him. Righting herself wasn’t possible. Finding the will to leave what she found in his hold defeated her efforts. Closing her eyes she told herself it would only be for a minute, just a minute. There was so much strength...and safety.
James’ hands seemed to move on their own, retaining the embrace she didn’t end and he couldn’t. God, she was so soft, so very nice. He couldn’t stop himself from touching her and allowing the wild hunger loose that holding her drove to the surface.
Shaking himself, his eyes registered the tight lipped anger and wanting his present stance brought out in his staring companions. Swallowing his groan of awareness, James needed to get a hold of himself. What the hell was he trying to do? Commit suicide? Before he could disengage her he heard the gruff astonishment of the Captain coming up behind him.
“What the hell do you think you are doing, McFarlain? Damn, you know my rules and the consequences!”
He lost his concentration to her fingers digging into his sleeve. Her silent fear was unmistakable. The distraction proved to be his downfall.
He felt the hands relieving him of his gun, just before two pairs enclosed about his arms. She remained in his hold. It was the Captain’s fingers that came around in front of them to dislodge her.
“Release the harlot this instant McFarlain!”
James’ dislike for the man seemed to fuel his irrational behavior towards the woman. Mike and the two thousand head of cattle were forgotten. “I’d love to, but she is hurt.”
The scoffs came from the room and James felt the dread close over him. A few well placed calls from the men reddened the Captain’s enraged face.
“Look Welsh, I don’t….”
“Save it McFarlain, your gentlemanly charms won’t get you out of this.”
Angie couldn’t stop her shiver. Every spoken word made them worse. She should move away from the man whose arms supported her. Why were they mad at them? At him? She could understand the captain being upset over having an unwanted passenger. But why take it out on Mr. McFarlain?
Calling on her remaining strength she pushed away from him and looked into the angry glare of his eyes. Was it her or the captain that lit that fire? His face was like stone, showing nothing of the turmoil she felt in the hands still holding her arms. His eyes held the graying of the storm she sensed, making her shake her head in denial, only to realize her mistake too late.
His hold tightened over her renewed weakness, refusing to obey the Captain’s ravings. Pulling her back against his chest was the worse thing James could do. No one wanted to believe he didn’t know her. James saw this too often; they were now the night’s entertainment. An example for the Captain, not to be dismissed until tried and convicted.
Rage engulfed him over what he knew was coming. Thoughts of fighting his way out ended as quickly as they surfaced. It would mean leaving Miss La Cross to face these men, alone. He couldn’t bring himself to do that to her. Neither would he release her to the furious man reaching out to pull her away.
“Keep your hands off her, Welsh!”
It was a foolish threat considering he was unarmed and held by two oversized goons. But the captain took the danger glaring at him at face value and stopped his advance.
Cautiously eyeing James, “Then you admit it?”
What was he saying? Admit what? Angie must have missed something. This had gone far enough she needed to get a hold of herself. She managed to push herself away from McFarlain to face the captain.
James watched the girl that disengaged his hold. She swayed, but he forced himself not to reach for her. Her eyes stayed him from helping. A daring mix of pride and stubbornness held her up. James felt something swell inside him for this woman, something he couldn’t define, but had to accept.
“Captain, I believe?”
“You know damn well I am!”
“There is no need to get excited.”
James’ humor nearly broke free. Her indignation was sending Welsh into a huffing fit.
“You insolent….”
“Welsh, I wouldn’t.” James’ voice was low and controlled, but it was a warning that silenced the room.
Angie didn’t dare look at the man standing close enough behind her that she could feel his heat. Whatever they all saw in McFarlain she cared only for the relief she felt that it kept this bull of a captain away from her.
“Look Captain, I think you have misunderstood. I’m sorry if you find my presence on your boat upsetting, but I can assure you it wasn’t intentional.” She didn’t like the way he was gloating at her. When he crossed his arms over his bloated stomach, straining the brass buttons of his uniform, she bit the inside of her cheek not to groan.
“So your presence wasn’t meant to be found out, hey?”
“No...I meant, I didn’t plan to be here at all. I fell down your ladder, and I guess I knocked myself out. Could you please contact the authorities, my aunt…?”
“The only authority around here is me and believe me, missy, you’ve made contact.”
Why didn’t that make her feel any better? He certainly wasn’t what she expected and he’d not get any booking for the party with this kind of insolent attitude. If his eyes raked over her breasts one more time, she...she’d slap him, that’s what she’d do!
“The name is Miss La Cross. Now, would you please radio the authorities and let them know where I can be picked up.”
James hadn’t heard a Creole accent like that since leaving New Orleans. The lyrical tones almost made him miss Welsh’s reply.
“Now, Miss La Cross, I’d be obliged to accommodate you if I had such a thing...what was it? A raydee-oh?”
She ignored his sarcastic use of her name. “Then just let me off at the next port.”
James tensed over what he felt was coming, which caused the brutes holding him to secure their hold more.
“I’d be glad to, only we’ve some unfinished business to attend to first.”
She wanted to ask what, but the whooping and hollering rushing through the room drowned out her voice. Clamping her mouth shut, she couldn’t stop herself from turning to Mr. McFarlain for answers.
“Oh my stars!” Angie felt what little color she possessed drain away. Her anger surged over what she stared open mouthed upon.
“Miss La Cross, I think it would be best if you didn’t say anything else.” James didn’t think the woman would listen to his request.
Spinning back to confront the captain, she gripped the bar in order not to fall. Ignoring McFarlain’s warning her angry words were forced past clenched teeth. “What is the meaning of this? Release Mr. McFarlain!”
She was shaking under the shock of seeing him held by those men and a knife pressed to his throat! How dare they do that to him!
“Missy, I have every intention of doing just that, but first.” She wanted to disappear from the sneer he gave her. “Men gather round.”
Looking from him, back to McFarlain and the stern uneasy look he gave her did indeed shut her up. McFarlain’s eyes conveyed the message that she only made it worse. The knife pressing close to his jugular vein wasn’t a joke. Angie tasted the bitterness of true fear.
“Now you all know my rules about women on board my vessel.” Looking directly at her, “They are not allowed and the punishment is severe.”
His speech was hilarious, Angie felt like she was in some corny movie. Opening her mouth, she snapped it shut when McFarlain’s strained curse reached her ears.
Glaring at him under the circumstances would be silly, but she was getting angrier by the second. Instead, she directed her tempered glare at the captain. Ugh, but she wanted to smack that satisfied grin off his pug face. Who did he think he was, anyway? She’d sue him for falling on his unattended vessel! Physical trauma, yeah, she probably suffered a concussion. Mental anguish was a certainty.
Building up her nerve to verbally attack the man, the tirade froze in her throat over his next announcement.
“Men, we have a wedding to perform.”
“Wedding?” Her outburst drew everyone’s humorous glances.
“Why yes, Miss La Cross...your wedding.”
The men’s laughter echoed through her head like a bad dream. He grabbed her arm and made her follow the men leading McFarlain outside.
To his credit McFarlain put up a valiant struggle. To her dismay, he received a vicious blow to his jaw for his effort. If he got loose the rage burning inside that man wouldn’t have stopped until these men were desecrated. Abhorring violence she couldn’t believe she was actually wishing he would break free.
Angie swallowed back her cry over what his hard blue eyes told her. This wasn’t a joke. These men were serious. They all had to be nuts!
All kinds of crazy thoughts careened through the intense pain that each dragged step sent off in her head.
James never took his eyes off her. When she stumbled he’d gone wild. The anger over seeing her in pain took over. The ache in his jaw snapped him back into some resemblance of sanity, but the fury inside him was near uncontrollable.
If only she’d keep quiet. He feared what they might do to her if she continued. It was obvious she had no idea of the dangerous extent of her situation. Welsh could be a vicious man. He relished the attention he was getting and it made him unpredictable. James wasn’t in any position to help either of them. Getting her away from these men was imperative. James didn’t like the ugly way the crowd was turning or the looks in their eyes for her. She didn’t realize what he was seeing and he hoped she wouldn’t, fearing what she might do.
When they placed her beside him he took the chance to whisper to her. “Just do what he wants and agree with whatever I say.”
Angie’s eyes enlarged over McFarlain’s request. Was he crazy too? Didn’t he hear what the captain was up to?
She wanted to ask him, but the captain didn’t give her a chance.
“Now, I have here the bible and as captain I have legal authority to wed these two. It’s legal, you will be husband and wife. What better match, right boys?”
The cheers sent chills up her spine.
“Now, James McFarlain do you take Miss...what’s your first name?”
Glaring at him she had a good mind not to answer. Scanning the sea of expectant faces her pride stiffened. “Angela.”
“James McFarlain, do you take Angela La Cross as your lawful wedded wife?”
Not looking at him she held her breath with the expectancy she felt over his answer. Why should she care?
“I do.”
The captain chuckled over the angry outburst everyone knew McFarlain wanted to lash out with.
“And you, Angela La Cross, do you take this man as your husband?”
“What? No love, honor and obey?” Her indignation made her antagonize the man.
“Throw in obey would you Welsh, I think I’ll need that one.”
Glaring up at McFarlain she didn’t know with whom she was angrier. The captain repeated the vow, tossing in obey at McFarlain’s request.
“Well, we’re waiting, get to it Missy.”
Angel didn’t need the obnoxious captain to tell her what he expected. “You can wait till....”
“Angela come on, it’s not like we’re strangers.”
Her mouth dropped open over James’ remark. She closed it when his hard gaze didn’t reflect anything close to what his words implied. Was he only saying this for their benefit?
Instinctively, she knew, he was the only one here she could trust. He didn’t want this any more than she did. Why should he? Remembering his warning she gave the only sensible answer. “I do.”
“Good, a wise decision Missy. I pronounce you, man and wife. You may kiss your bride, James.”
Before she could object McFarlain pulled her into his arms and captured her lips, smothering her protest in a kiss that did more than just silence her outrage. Too stunned to hide her response, she could only stare at him when he released her.
The cheers ended her short lived trance, but the shouts coming at them quickly made her seek the very man that just left her totally rattled. Moving to McFarlain’s side she released her breath when his arm came about her waist. “Alright Welsh, you’ve had your fun.”
“Not quite James. You never should have crossed me. Your marriage papers will be filed in St. Louis. You can pick your gear up there.”
James had been afraid Welsh would do this. Right now, seeing the eager men surrounding them, it was probably the best way out for her.
“Now James.”
“Can I have my gun?”
“Sure. Boys, give the man his gun.”
She watched, too confused to do anything else, as the man passed the captain McFarlain’s gun. The captain emptied the filled chambers of the bullets. Staring, she watched the bullets hit and roll across the deck before he passed the gun over to McFarlain.
Starting to move away, James stopped and came back to her. Taking her arm, “Come on Angela.”
Pulling her arm out of his grip, she stared at him in disbelief finally understanding what they all expected.
“No...you are all crazy.” The shaking of her head wasn’t anything compared to what her knees were doing. “No, I am not going into that River!”
 

CHAPTER 2

Muddy Waters
 
The water washed over her head, drowning out her screams as they entered the rushing current. It was his hand, wrapped in her hair that pulled her gasping to the surface.
“Hold on to my belt!”
The current was too strong to argue. They were caught in its drowning flow. Angie gripped the belt where his hand placed hers, she could barely keep her face out of the water continually sucking her down. Her moan over the pain in her head became lost beneath the wild roar of rushing water.
“Kick with all you’ve got! Come on, we can make it.”
Automatically she did what he wanted. All the while the word obey rang in her mind. Anger over what they’d done to them made her fight the sluggish haze trying to capture her. She felt the heavy weight of her sweater pulling her down, making her struggle for its release. She worked it off with the only remaining hold at her wrist where she held onto his belt. The strain was taking its toll, she must get rid of the sweater or loose the battle.
Kicking harder, she struggled to get close enough to switch hands on the belt. When she reached to change her hold something hit her legs, pulling and catching them. The exchange never happened. Angie lost him in the current.
James spun about over the sudden release of her weight. She was no where in sight. “Angela! Damn it woman, where are you?”
Trying to keep above the water she called out to answer, swallowing the mud laced river water in the process.
Letting himself go with the current he saw her arms thrashing before they disappeared beneath the surface. Swimming to the spot, he reached out touching something soft. Latching on to it James pulled her up against him, he held her limp body as he strained to get them to the shore.
When his feet touched the muddy bottom he dragged them both up onto the bank before collapsing beside her. Gulping down air he fought his exhaustion. Moving over her, he rolled her onto her back.
“Come on....” He watched. Placing his hand over her chest, he practically shouted when he felt her take a shattering breath. Holding her until she coughed up the water James fell back with her across his chest.
~*~
Angie fought waking; the dream far too real. The brightness intruded as she fought off the memories, all but those of him. His image brought on a storm of emotions. The remembered kiss they shared overwhelmed Angie’s senses.
James wondered when she would finally open her eyes. The memory he held of them couldn’t compare to the very real fresh green in their depths. Like a meadow caught in spring, life glowed in her eyes.
His fingers stroked the satin strands falling down her back. He held her all night. Waking long before dawn, he’d refused to stir wanting to experience the feel of her against him. It wasn’t a liberty he felt she’d allow once fully awake. After the night they’d been through it seemed only right to hold her. The bump on the back of her head went down some. The feel of her bare arms…he couldn’t get enough of how she felt.
He almost regretted that the sun rose when she started to wake. But then, he was anxious to see what her reaction would be. Remembering how he’d kissed her peaked his curiosity, she’d drawn more emotions out of him than he’d felt in ten years. James thought a lot about that revelation. He’d changed too much since the war. Last night he’d felt alive. After the shocking admission he found he liked what was happening to him.
Angela. Was she an angel? It was a silly thought, but it stayed with him all night. When her hands started to move over him, his own tightened to hold on to what they found.
Angie’s head shot up causing her to cry out over the pain. She closed her eyes to the sensations, she didn’t want to know if what they said were true. She slowly opened her eyes and let his image rushed in, with it came the panic. “Oh no....”
“Good morning.”
Biting her lip, she couldn’t believe this. “Oh no...”
“You said that.”
“It happened. Didn’t it?”
“ ‘fraid so…Mrs. McFarlain.”
Her eyes blazed in disbelief as she shoved herself off of him, earning James’ smile before he eased himself up before her. Oh yes, she was going to be in one hell of a state. As he’d discovered during the night she lost nearly all her covering. Standing before him, with her hands on her hips, what he saw left little to the imagination. The material stretched across her breast was like a transparent skin.
He decided to enjoy every lovely curve and luscious mound exhibited, at least until she realized how much was on display. Even the ridiculous mud caked pants she wore were enticing. The way they hugged her shape so tightly did unthinkable things to his male physique. His questions for her were piling up, but they could wait.
James took his gun out of the holster, the act sent her stumbling back. He chose to ignore her reaction as he blew out the empty cylinders. “Are you hungry?”
She was, but looking around she wondered where he expected to eat. There wasn’t a building to be seen.
“Well I am. Why don’t you take care of…whatever, while I rustle up something edible.” He tossed her the matches from his pocket. “They should be dry, if not, lay them out so the sun hits them. Can you build a fire?”
“Of course.” She wanted to groan over the defensive feelings he immediately called to life.
“Give it a try.”
Too confused to mouth the questions she wanted, she watched him take off into the woods. By the time she realized he actually left her alone it was too late to call him back. Turning around, all she saw were more woods and the river. Shivering at the memory of the muddy water she quickly busied herself.
Angela’s frown deepened, the tips of the matches were damp. Locating a flat rock she laid them out like little soldiers to dry. The dampness in her boots finally penetrated her thoughts and she pulled them off, putting them over a thick branch with the hope they too would air out.
The loss of her sweater made her angry. “Those creeps.”
Almost drowning and finding herself stranded with Mr. Macho made her scoff at the possible disasters that might rise up to smite her. Wondering how far it was to the nearest town made her fingers gingerly touch the knot on her head.
Angie told herself that worrying over it wouldn’t change what happened. She needed to do something and started to gather the wood and build it up for a fire. “Can I build a fire…his mother is probably still on the farm!” Standing back she surveyed her handiwork then tried the matches until one finally caught. Once the fire got going she started to panic over the blaze she’d created. “All I need to do is start a forest fire.”
“We could always jump in the river again.”
Startled by his voice she jumped, but when her eyes saw what was hanging from his hand, “You killed a rabbit!”
“I couldn’t find a bear.”
Grimacing, she avoided him and the dead animal.
James hid his humor over her reaction, but he wondered how she lived. She obviously wasn’t used to fending for herself. “Where are you from Angela?”
She refused to face him over his question because of what she might see, she kept her attention on the river and answered. “New Orleans, actually outside in Clayton. Do you know how far we are from there?”
He would have been surprised if she hadn’t been from there with that accent. It did get heavier when her anger rose to the surface. She was a long way from home. “We were only a few hours from docking in St. Louis. Walking, I’d say it will probably take us a full day to get there.”
Spinning about she completely forgot about the poor dead bunny his attention was centered on. “St. Louis! No way, you must be wrong.”
Placing the skewed rabbit over the coals, James tried to retain his patience over her outburst. “We will be in St. Louis by morning, sooner if we can catch a ride on the river.”
The finality in his tone stopped all the arguments she wanted to voice. But how?
“What’s wrong?”
“I…I guess I must have been unconscious longer than I realized. But that can’t be right either, I mean it would have taken the Silver Queen days to get this far.”
“Weeks.”
“What?”
“I takes her weeks to come up river fighting the current.”
He seemed so sure Angie didn’t know what to say. Things about last night she hadn’t wanted to acknowledge started coming back. All those men...and the Silver Queen...it was different. What was it she’d seen? Trying to remember made her headache return. The uneasy thoughts made her eyes skip to him. Thankfully he was busy with their breakfast and didn’t see her wary scrutiny.
Ignoring the dried mud on his clothes, the dark tailored suit wasn’t noticeably different, unless one looked closer. It was the cut. Fitted down to his firm waist, the coat’s bottom flared out in a long, rather unusual style. The vest was a fancy thing with its silver brocade design over the once white silk shirt. Even the thin tie was different.
But she knew it was the holster, slung low about his waist that held her curiosity. She remembered that the other men wore guns as well, some were double holsters.
Angie didn’t like the strange thoughts coming to her concerning the reason for such open firearms. The way he wore it, strapped tightly to his muscled thigh, stopping just above the high black boots. He didn’t carry it for show. No, this McFarlain knew how to use it.
Shaken by the truth she forced her eyes away. They came to rest on the thick brown hair. Before their dive into the river she remembered he had been wearing a black Stetson with a silver band. Didn’t gamblers once wear fancy garb like his? Was he? For some reason she didn’t ask, it didn’t seem important. Several of the men last night wore similar rakish outfits. And there were the moustaches. McFarlain’s was long on the sides, as were his side burns that jutted out onto his cheeks. On him it was a very attractive style, even if it was outrageously old fashion.
Aware of her intense study of him, James decided not to interrupt her. Was she as fascinated about him as he was of her? Some of the things she said last night came back to him. “What was it you wanted the captain to call the authorities on?”
“A radio?”
“Yes, that was it. What is it?”
Sucking in her breath, she couldn’t answer. She didn’t like the question his raised.
“Angela?”
“Its Angie, everyone calls me, Angie.”
She didn’t seem to notice his eyes on her. James didn’t like the far away look her misty green eyes held him in.
“Let’s eat, we have a long walk ahead of us.”
They ate in silence and he was surprised she didn’t complain about eating the rabbit that upset her so openly. Something was going on inside that lovely head of hers that made him worry.
Scattering the ashes he watched her move as if oblivious to his presence while putting on her boots. Taking off his jacket he went over and placed it around her shoulders. She moved freely about him and didn’t seem at all self-conscience about her lack of proper attire.
“You might get a sunburn, keep it.”
Slipping her arm into the long sleeves she rolled them up to her elbows. “Thank you.”
He didn’t answer, just moved off and Angie followed in silence still deep within her own troubled thoughts. Once she wondered why she followed him, but dismissed the question, the others flooding her senses held more importance.
Time seemed immaterial as they followed the riverbank. They came upon a large patch of raspberries. Eating all they could, McFarlain tore off a section of his shirttail to hold a store of them for later.
It wasn’t until they walked some distance from the berry patch that Angie stopped cold. Turning, she looked back unable to see where they found them.
“Something wrong?”
“We just ate raspberries!”
His broad shoulders straightened in warning.
“But...” Her troubled eyes came back to meet his. Searching the electric blue depths she didn’t know what she expected to find. She was acting weird and felt his awareness, but the crazy thoughts wouldn’t stop.
“Angela?”
“There aren’t any berries in February.”
Only the nerve above his left eye flinched. His control was superb, but she knew that was exactly what it was...control.
“It’s not February, is it?”
Answering her proved difficult when she looked so scared. James couldn’t imagine what caused this reaction. She hadn’t even brought up last night, the ceremony, nothing! Now this.
“Please tell me. What month is it?”
“August. August twenty-second.”
Holding herself, she forced the next question out past the quivering in her lips. “The year, what year is it?”
He answered very slowly. “1875.”
She wouldn’t faint. His eyes were trying to penetrate to her very soul making it extremely difficult to hold herself together. She didn’t want to listen to anything more...it was impossible!
“Angela?”
“I’m fine, I...that fall really did a number on me. I guess I’m just disorientated. It should pass.”
Her excuse came too quick and given in the fear he glimpsed in her eyes. James didn’t think forcing her to tell him what was wrong would work. He took her hand and he led them on.
Angie didn’t object to his hold, she needed the strange reassurance it gave to her. Chancing a glance at him, his proud features looked so strong, she tried to gather strength from him and not think anymore over the unsettling fears. Instead she concentrated on last night’s events.
McFarlain hadn’t brought it up and she couldn’t make herself do it. No, she couldn’t deal with any of that now. Once they reached St. Louis...or wherever he took her, she’d get a message to Aunt Belle and Sally. They would know what to do. Angie was incapable of thinking straight. Maybe it was all a bad dream. She didn’t want to hear the facts that said she’d already slept and was still in this mess.
James’ own thoughts were as troubled as the girl’s beside him. Why did the date upset her so? He didn’t believe for a moment that the bump on her head caused this reaction. Troubled by what he couldn’t understand his concentration remained on her and what he was going to do with her.
The marriage was a farce, no matter what Welsh did about filing the papers. But James knew he couldn’t just walk away once they reached civilization. Why should he suddenly be filled with compassion for the woman? His thoughts only left him more confused. The fact she failed to acknowledge their marriage bothered him no end. He’d have to get her home, back to New Orleans. She mentioned an Aunt; at least she had family.
For someone that didn’t want to get involved, he felt up to his neck in trouble. He had a wife he held no claim on and to top it off he couldn’t make himself leave it at that.
~*~
The craft moved steadily up the river, but Angie barely took notice of the passing scenery. McFarlain called it luck when the barge came into view on the river. He’d hailed them down. The man and his young son were more than willing to take them the rest of the way.
He’d left her alone, seeming to understand she needed to think. Angie took in every nuance of these, two new people. What she saw made her more frightened than she wanted to admit. Anxious to reach St. Louis Angie hoped she would find some answers.
“Captain Beck sent these for you.”
Sitting down beside her, James passed her the biscuit and ham slice, which ended up sitting in her lap.
“When will we get there?”
“Before nightfall.” She didn’t look at him and he wanted to make her. “Angela, we need to discuss some things.”
Sighing, she realized it had finally come. Scooting back so she could face him, she told herself not to show him anything, no matter what happened. Even in their short time together she came to rely on him too much. The thought of not having him around to help her face what she feared made her stomach wretch. He’d done more than most men would under the circumstances and she couldn’t fault him.
“You never told me what a radio is?”
Raising her eyes from her lap, it was the last thing she expected to hear. Relief and curiosity over his reaction made her decide to tell him. “It is a machine that sends out sound waves and transmits voices or messages across the air to another machine called a receiver.”
He accepted her explanation. “Sounds like a telegraph.”
“Only there are no wires.” He was good. It must be all the card games she believed he played, he hardly blinked. All but that tiny nerve jumping over his eye, it was a dead giveaway.
“It must be quite new, I haven’t heard of it.”
“Captain Welsh obviously hadn’t.” She wasn’t ready to take this any further.
“That man only sees trouble.”
“It’s not real...what he did. I mean you don’t have to worry, I don’t expect you to be held by it or anything.”
Why did her declaration send a spark of anger off inside of him? His thoughts fell right in line with hers. Damn it, what was wrong with him!
“Right, but Angela, I can’t just let you...” Go out of my life? She’d think him crazy to say something like that.
Discovering what lay behind those crystal blue eyes wasn’t possible. She wanted to reach out and brush that stray lock of hair back from his tanned brow. Instead she pulled his coat tighter about her.
“I’ll see you have passage back to New Orleans. You have an Aunt there?”
“Yes.” She prayed she did. But Aunt Belle seemed far away. Blinking back the threatening tears she dropped her eyes, not wanting him to see her distress. When his finger came under her chin and forced her gaze back, she wanted to moan over the concern he held out for her to see.
“Angela don’t. Tell me what’s wrong?”
“I can’t.” Her heart wanted so to tell him. Confide in him about her fears, about what she believed just happened to her.
His anger over her refusal came with a strength that wouldn’t stay buried. “Alright, if you’re so stubborn, than I can be too. You’re wrong about the marriage, its legal and very binding. You are Mrs. James McFarlain!”
His unexpected anger sent her scooting back. “You aren’t serious?”
“Wrong, I am, and so are the laws on the subject. The Captain wasn’t lying. Once those papers are filed there is no way of changing them. He docked last night, I suspect our license was the first piece of business to be dealt with this morning.”
Leaning forward, he closed her open mouth. Whatever his reason for making such a ridiculous claim, it didn’t matter. James refused to take it back. The lady wasn’t going anywhere!
“But that’s absurd, we were forced into saying those vows. Why, he didn’t even read from the bible.”
“It doesn’t matter.”
Rising before he could stop her, she glared down at him, pinning him with her flaming green glare. He hadn’t seen so much life in her and he loved it! He sensed she’d been hiding all this spunk.
“There you are wrong, it matters a whole hell of a lot! When I marry a man, it will be done properly, in a church. Not by some lunatic Captain that probably can’t read!”
When he stood up he towered over her, but it didn’t matter, the lady was on a roll. Her finger came up and poked at his chest. “And you...why you have no claim on me what so ever! And you know it! I’m not your wife and you can’t change that, no matter what the laws say.”
His deep broad smile was disarming, halting her tirade and her finger. He moved too quickly, taking her hands and wrapping them around her back, then yanking her against him.
“You are wrong...Mrs. McFarlain. We spent the night in each other’s arms.” His breath fanned her flushed face.
&am

Purchase this item

Price:
$2.99


ISBN (Print):
ISBN (Electronic):
Genre: Time Travel
Date Published: 06/24/2013
Publisher: Jewel Adams

Please Choose:

Book Format:

Add to Cart:


BUTTON_SUBSCRIBE_DESIGNER_ALT

Send Book as Gift

Store Reward Credit

0.03 Points

Add to Wishlist

Click the button bellow to add this product to your wishlist.

Add to Wishlist

More Information




Advanced Search

Customers who bought this product also purchased...