A Romance Collection
Don’t miss this collection of short historical western romances by award-winning author Kristy McCaffrey. Journey to the Grand Canyon, Colorado and more with U.S. Marshals, bounty hunters, and men trying to right a wrong, and the women who challenge them every step of the way. These previously published stories also include a brand-new adventure – The Starling and the Fox, related to Kristy’s novel The Starling.
The Starling and the Fox – New!!
San Francisco 1899
Pinkerton agent Louise Foster doesn’t like loose ends. When fugitive Walter Beckett escapes at the end of the Wingate case—handled by fellow agent Henry Maguire and Louise’s protégé, Kate Ryan—Louise takes a chance that he fled to San Francisco. She sets up a surveillance of Walter’s ex-fiancée in the hope of locating him, but her careful plans are upended when Henry’s brother, Ian, arrives.
U.S. Deputy Marshal Ian Maguire doesn’t need help on the Beckett case, and spending time with his brother’s Pinkerton partner isn’t on his agenda either. But Louise Foster is the kind of woman who’s difficult to forget—intelligent, cunning, and a master of disguises. Solving the case is the least of his problems.
Grand Canyon 1894
Elise Brumlow comes to Grand Canyon in fulfillment of her dying father’s last wish—to release his ashes into the mighty Colorado River. In such a remote setting she doesn’t expect to find a man living alone.
Taggart Mason has only ever wanted solitude, and the blue waters of the Little Colorado provide it. But when the lovely Miss Brumlow tumbles down the trail and right into his arms, his world is about to tumble right along with it. Elise’s injured foot forces Tag into a show of hospitality unnatural to him. But even more unnatural is resisting a woman who tempts him like no other.
In a place where two rivers join, one clear and warm, the other dark and cold, Tag and Elise learn that certain forces of nature can’t be denied.
Catch A Cinder, Ella
Ella McMann travels from town to town with her pa, who makes a living carving crosses. One night, she meets Floyd at a social and sparks fly between them, but a family secret threatens their relationship before it has a chance to begin.
Frank Cinder made a promise to his dying mother that he wouldn’t abandon the ranch his stepfather and stepbrothers run, but as soon as he has enough money saved, he plans to strike out on his own. When he meets Ella disguised as Floyd to avoid his family, he regrets lying to her, but he’s determined to pursue a future with her.
A Westward Adventure
Aspiring novelist Amelia Mercer travels from New York City to Colorado to aid an injured aunt, but then her stage is robbed and her luggage stolen. When bounty hunter Ned Waymire offers to help find the culprit, Amelia knows she’s found the hero of her new novel. But the more time she spends with him, the more real the man and his profession becomes.
When Ned learns of the crime against Miss Mercer, he steps in to spare the perpetrator, a young man with whom he’s acquainted, but Ned also seeks to impress the independent young woman. Amelia's wish to never marry, however, clashes with his desire to keep her reputation intact. Can he convince her to stay?
When a final bounty from Ned's past threatens their future, Amelia knows that A Westward Adventure isn’t just the title of her novel but the new course of her life.
Lily and Mesquite Joe
Arizona Territory 1872
Ranch hand Mesquite Joe Riordan has always considered Lily Kingston out of reach. As the daughter of a prominent rancher in the Arizona Territory, she'll one day inherit an empire. When Joe's past threatens not only himself, but Lily and everything her father has built, he knows he can't stand by and do nothing. But can he give Lily his heart when he believes she deserves better?
Lily Kingston has long loved Joe Riordan, but when he doesn't step forward to protest her betrothal to another man—arranged by her papa—her heart breaks. When Joe is blamed for the murder of a ranch hand and disappears, Lily knows exactly where to find him. Facing the truth of his past will test her resolve, but only her stubbornness can win his heart.
Grand Canyon 1898
In search of her brother, Annabel Cross enters Grand Canyon with a guide and a mule. When circumstances have her hanging from a cliff side, her rescue at the hands of U.S. Deputy Marshal Angus Docherty is fortuitous in more ways than one. He’s chasing the notorious Red Bandit, and it soon becomes clear that Annabel’s brother is mixed up with the criminal as well. While the marshal believes she may be in on a double-cross, she has a more pressing secret to hide. She can talk to deceased spirits, and she wonders whether to tell Angus about the old Apache ever near to him.
Read Chapter One
The Starling and the Fox
A click at the front door of the Victorian townhouse had Louise ducking behind a thick curtain. The door closed quietly, and the perpetrator’s footfalls were a mere whisper moving through the darkened rooms.
Louise peered past the velvet curtain, fighting the urge to sneeze from the dusty material. With eyes accustomed to the darkness, she easily saw the tall broad-shouldered form that entered the sitting area where she had been using a spy glass to surveille Wallace Wingate’s home across the street.
The intruder crashed into a side table and swore, his voice sending a wave of recognition through her. Was it … ? She sneezed. By the time she lifted her face, he was directly in front of her.
Damn, he was fast.
“Who are you?” he said.
She relaxed. “Hello, Ian.”
He leaned closer, peering at her. “Do I know you?”
Oh. She’d forgotten she was still wearing her disguise from earlier. She tugged the blond wig from her head that concealed her auburn hair and removed the fake glasses. “It’s Louise Foster.”
He stepped back, and she immediately missed his warmth, leaving her to catch her breath.
She frowned, startled by her reaction to him.
“Do you have any light in here?” he asked.
“Yes.” She stepped to the table at the back of the room and lit an oil lamp. “It’s about time you showed up. Jonesy said you were tracking Walter Beckett and that I should join you.” Her boss at the Pinkerton Detective Agency, Edgar Jones, hadn’t exactly insisted she be on this job. Rather, she’d had to twist his arm, but Ian didn’t need to know that. “But you weren’t here when I arrived, so I made myself at home. I hope you don’t mind.”
Now she could see him more clearly—Ian Maguire, U.S. Deputy Marshal and the brother of Henry Maguire, a fellow Pinkerton detective. The siblings shared the same dark hair and blue eyes, but while Henry was a colleague and friend and nothing more, Ian’s presence was causing heat to slide up her neck, moving swiftly to her cheeks.
She wasn’t here for him, she reminded herself, but to catch Beckett, a loose end from the last case she’d worked on, albeit only in the final days of the investigation into Arthur and Lottie Wingate. Ian’s brother, Henry, and Louise’s protégé, Kate Ryan, had done the bulk of the work.
Another glance at Ian’s impassive face had her heart tripping over itself and then racing to catch up. Since when did a handsome face give her the jitters? She prided herself on steely nerves under pressure.
“I was delayed with other business,” Ian said. “Thank you for getting started, but you don’t need to be here, Miss Foster. Give me your surveillance notes, and I’ll handle finding Beckett.”
“I think you misunderstand,” she said, willing her errant body to calm down. “The Pinkerton agency is still under contract for the insurance fraud and counterfeiting case against Arthur Wingate, as well as the art forgeries, and as this includes Walter Beckett, they expect us to finish the job.” She moved to her bag sitting on the floor near the entryway and retrieved a letter. “And then there’s this.” She handed it to Ian, grateful that her countenance appeared collected and her voice seemed calm despite her feeling anything but.
He read it and handed it back to her.
She didn’t miss the flash of irritation on his face, a bit leaner and more defined than Henry’s. Ian was older by two years, but he seemed far more mature in demeanor. She wondered if he ever smiled.
The letter was from the U.S. Marshal service giving Louise permission to assist Ian in his investigation. Even if Ian wanted to get rid of her, she had every right to remain.
And remain she would.
She never left a case open-ended. It wasn’t her style.
She had met Ian three weeks ago, at the tail end of the Arthur Wingate case in Trinidad, Colorado. Wingate and his wife, Lottie, had been charged with counterfeiting and art forgeries, as well as an eight-year-old charge of the attempted murder of Hugh Maguire, Ian and Henry’s father. Everyone had thought Hugh was dead, but it had been discovered that he was very much alive—he’d faked his death and sneaked off to Europe.
Hugh’s sudden reappearance had been a jolt to both Ian and Henry. Louise had been happy the two of them were able to reconcile their tumultuous relationship with their father, including the man’s lies, but while she’d been able to offer comfort to her good friend, Henry, Ian had been distant. Aloof. He and Henry had been estranged for many years, and Henry had rarely spoken of it. All Louise had known was that he had a brother and he was a deputy marshal.
But now here she was, forced to work with Ian Maguire to resolve the final issue in the case—Walter Beckett. Not only was Beckett likely the engraver of the counterfeit money the Wingates had been producing for years, he’d also been the murderer of Hugh Maguire. Or rather, with Hugh alive, Beckett was now accused of attempted murder.
Three weeks ago, Louise had arrived at the end of Henry and Kate’s case and had helped Kate track Beckett to an old mine where he had planned to kill Henry. Kate had shot Beckett in the shoulder to slow the man down, but somehow, he’d escaped into the woods, and despite hours of tracking, they’d lost him.
The sound of her name on Ian’s lips sent a shiver down her spine, and she shifted from foot to foot. What was wrong with her? She’d never felt anything beyond friendship for Henry. Why should his brother suddenly unsettle her?
“Walter Beckett is a dangerous man,” he said. “I would prefer not to have you in the line of fire. I can handle this. And when I get him, I’ll call you in to close your case.”
“That’s very gracious of you, but what kind of detective would I be if I let someone else do my job? Thank you, but I’ll be staying.”
Ian released an audible breath, and Louise could feel the tension emanating from him.
For the last five years she’d worked her way up the Pinkerton agency and was accustomed to others, especially men, underestimating her and her abilities. But still, Ian’s dismissal stung a little. Henry had always treated her as an equal, and she supposed she expected it from his brother as well.
“Would you like me to catch you up?” she asked, moving away from him so she could think more clearly, but remaining near the front window to continue her stakeout.
Ian didn’t reply but also moved to the large bay window and began scanning the street and buildings.
“Delia Wingate is staying at her father’s home,” she said, sitting in a wooden chair she’d placed by the window.
“When did she arrive?”
“Three days ago.” She lifted the spy glass to look for any sign of movement, but the windows of the two-story brick home were dark. It was late; Delia likely had gone to bed.
“And you believe Beckett will pay her a visit.”
“I do. He was engaged to her. He was ready to kill Henry in a fit of jealousy. He won’t let her go so easily, especially now.”
Ian looked at her, raising an eyebrow.
“She’s alone,” Louise said, answering his silent question. “Her life with her aunt and uncle is over now that Arthur and Lottie have been arrested for their crimes. Her father has been arrested for his role in passing off forgeries through his art business. By all accounts, she’s destitute. If I were Walter, I’d take advantage of her vulnerability.”
“All good points,” he replied.
“I’m just not certain he’s in San Francisco. I came here on a hunch, following Delia.”
“How do you know? I checked the train station and stage depots. No one fitting his description passed through.”
“You out of anyone should know not to trust appearances.”
Embarrassed, Louise came up short. “I really didn’t think he was smart enough.”
“Walter Beckett is the worst kind of criminal—cunning enough to think his actions through while driven by a crooked bent and lack of conscience.”
“So you know he’s here?”
Ian gave one short nod. “I believe he arrived yesterday. He made his way to Raton, New Mexico, where he boarded a train.”
“I checked all surrounding stations,” she insisted.
“He had help. My contact identified him and sent me word.”
“But he didn’t detain him?”
“He tried. Beckett gave him the slip,” he said. “You had the right instincts to come here.”
“True love always prevails,” she said airily.
“Maybe. I don’t deny that Beckett had an uncomfortable obsession with Delia, which I can only conclude is why she ended the engagement. But what if he’s here for another reason?”
Louise set the spy glass in her lap. “Such as?”
“I’m not sure, but he’s taking a big risk coming here. Delia has spurned him ever since she ended the engagement years ago. Why would he still think he could win her over?” Ian resumed his perusal of the outside street. “I’m betting it’s something more concrete, such as money. Beckett needs it. He needs to disappear. And he’s hobbled by that shot in the shoulder from Kate Ryan.”
“Yes, I know. I was there.”
“Do you think she missed on purpose?”
“No,” Louise answered. “She did what I trained her to do, which was to slow down the perpetrator, not to kill him. Who knew that Walter Beckett would prove to be so resilient in the face of blood loss?”
“Never underestimate the will to live.” Ian’s voice held a tinge of something else, and Louise wondered if it had to do with his recently resurrected father.
“Have you been watching the residence by yourself?” he asked.
“Since you insist on staying, we can take shifts. You look exhausted. Why don’t you get some rest.”
The weariness in Louise’s bones blanketed her; she had kept it at bay the last few days because she’d had no choice. Jonesy had said he’d send another agent to help. Was he in the process of doing that, or had he decided that Ian Maguire would do?
She stood and handed the spy glass to Ian. “I won’t argue with you, since I am very tired. There are two bedrooms, so if you need to sleep you won’t have to wait for me.”
“I’ll watch until three a.m., then I’ll wake you.”
She nodded and left the room, trying not to dwell on how Ian Maguire might wake a woman.