Hank’s Rescued Bride (The Dalton Brides #5)

READER REVIEW

A wonderful thought-provoking entertaining read. Written with such clarity, shining a light on a difficult subject. I was surprised at the direction the book took yet could not stop turning the pages. This will rank as one of Mrs Hayes best works, which in itself is a very hard job since everything she writes is beyond brilliant.
~Leona (Amazon reviewer)

EXTENDED EXCERPT

Hank couldn’t help admiring the confident way Maggie crossed the platform, as if she didn’t have a care in the world. He wished he felt half as collected as she looked. And it wasn’t only their impending rescue mission that had him on edge. If he concentrated hard enough, he could still smell the subtle fragrance of rose water that always seemed to float around Maggie.

As soon as she was safely aboard, he darted back around to the front of the depot, changing his pace to a brisk walk when he spotted other people. It was still early, but the place was starting to get crowded, and that included the platform. No sense in risking someone spotting them both coming from the same secluded corner. Better for him to take a different route.

Shoving one hand in a pocket as the other casually swung his bag, he whistled a merry tune. Onlookers would — hopefully — see the same old, carefree Hank they all knew strolling casually through the now-bustling station, even though he felt like a tightly coiled spring inside. Only those paying close attention would notice the slight quaver to his whistling.

His sole focus was on getting aboard that train, which was why he didn’t see the man before he bumped into him. “Oh, I’m sorry, sir,” he sputtered, turning to see if the man was injured. It seemed to take days for him to tilt his head back far enough to see the man’s massive face. Everything about him was massive. Then Hank’s heart nearly stopped.

The man who followed him!

How had he found him? Lucky guess, probably. Regardless, Hank couldn’t let the man know he recognized him, if it wasn’t already too late, and he most certainly couldn’t board the train now. Dagnabit!

First things first, he had to get away from the man so he could think. “I do apologize,” he said, baring his teeth in what he hoped looked like a grin, not a grimace. “Sometimes my mind wanders.”

The man just looked down on him like a cat who’d found its next meal. Hank tipped his hat and walked over to the ticket window, and stood behind three other passengers. Out of the corner of his eye, he monitored the big man and the train, wondering which would leave first.

When it was his turn at the window, he nearly shouted, “One for Boston, please.”

The old ticket seller slapped his hands to his ears. “No need to yell, sonny. Wait, didn’t you already—“

“One for Boston,” he repeated, drowning out the old man, who shrugged and wrote him up a ticket for the next train due in.

Still ignoring his pursuer, he strolled out to the platform to ‘wait’ while still carefully tracking the man’s every move. Maggie would be wondering where he was. Hank cursed himself for trying to get fancy instead of simply following after her. The beast would never have spotted him, and he’d be sitting next to Maggie, smelling her rose water.

Every muscle tensed when the train let out a big chuff and inched forward but he feigned disinterest. The big man watched for a moment longer, then approached the ticket window, always keeping his head slightly turned toward the platform. Hank stretched and yawned as the train slowly rolled way from the station.

The third passenger car, the one Catherine was on, was already passing him when the big man stepped up to the window and turned his attention to the teller. Now! Hank snatched up his bag and sprinted for the train. It was really picking up steam now. This was going to be close.

Through a grimy window of the last passenger car, he thought he saw Maggie’s terrified face peering out as it sped past. He couldn’t let her down! Drawing from someplace deep inside, he pushed himself to go faster.

The caboose rattled by as he reached the edge of the platform. Behind him, he heard a shout, but he couldn’t risk looking back. It was now or never. Pushing off with all the strength he had, Hank threw his bag and his body toward the rear landing of the caboose…and missed.