Samantha Hughes has one day to escape from her wicked uncle, and a sign in the post office is her answer. She’ll cut her hair to pose as a man and become Sam Hughes, a Pony Express rider.
Valerian Fitzpatrick doesn’t want the weight of responsibility that his brothers have in the family business. Fortunately, the Pony Express offers a chance to make his own way in the world.
He assumes his new buddy, Sam, is on the run from the law, until she’s hit by a stray gunshot and he has to undress her to staunch the wound. Friendship quickly turns to attraction—and more—but when Sam’s uncle tracks her down, she is forced to run yet again.
Val’s determined to find her, but will a future with Sam mean giving up the freedom he’s always craved?
“Sorry. We filled the last position a few minutes ago. We’ve got the eighty riders we need for this part of the route. We’ll probably be hiring more later on if you want to check back in a couple months.”
Samantha couldn’t speak. She blinked, nodded at Mr. Russell, and moved away from the table so he could tell the next man the same news. What could she do now? She couldn’t hang around St. Joe for a few months. She needed to get as far away from here as she could. Fighting against the panic threatening to overwhelm her again, she walked outside the big Patee House where the Pony Express had its offices, and stood in the cold, March air, her eyes on the ground.
“So, are you now an Express rider?”
Sam’s eyes came up. It was the same man she’d met earlier. Valerian. Val. He had another pair of horses, which he was leading to the corral.
“No, they have enough riders for now.”
“So what will you do?”
“I don’t know. I hadn’t thought beyond joining the Express.”
Val stared at her for a long minute, his glance moving from her head to her toes.
Samantha tried her best not to flinch at his gaze. Had he figured out already she was a girl? Broken through her disguise?
“Come with me.” He tied his horses to the hitching post and grabbed her by the arm, pulling her back into the Patee House.
And because she had nothing better to do, she followed. Right back to the table where Mr. Russell still sat.
“Mr. Russell, this young fella is great with horses. Don’t you need some hands at the Seneca station to take care of the stock?”
William Russell showed Samantha the same kind of appraisal Val had. She stood her ground but gritted her teeth. The man held her future in his hands.
“I’ll tell you what. If you can get yourself to Seneca before they hire all the workers they need, you can be hired on there.”
Sam let out the breath she’d been holding. “Thank you, Mr. Russell. You won’t regret it.” She stuck out her hand to him, and was relieved when his big hand enveloped hers.
“You know the pay for a stable boy isn’t as much as for a rider, don’t you? You’ll only be making fifty dollars a month.”
“That’s all right. In fact, it’s fine.”
“So, get out of here and get yourself to Seneca.”
“Thank you, sir.”
Sam and Val left the office. Once they got outside, Val let out a whoop and flung his hat in the air. Sam didn’t follow his actions, but stared at the ground again. How could she ever get to Seneca before someone else claimed her job?
Amazon best-selling author Becky Lower has traveled the country looking for great settings for her novels. She loves to write about two people finding each other and falling in love, amid the backdrop of a great setting, be it on a covered wagon headed west or in present day small town America. Historical and contemporary romances are her specialty. Becky is a PAN member of RWA and is a member of the Historic and Contemporary RWA chapters. She has a degree in English and Journalism from Bowling Green State University, and lives in an eclectic college town in Ohio with her puppy-mill rescue dog, Mary. She loves to hear from her readers at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit her website at www.beckylowerauthor.com