This was an amazing book that grabbed my attention and held it throughout the entire story. ~ PansyPetal
From New York to the old west, wrong and right, friend or foe and love or hate, they Ryder family is off on another adventure that I think you all will enjoy immensely! ~ Review All Products
New York City Lawyer Garret Ryder takes the law into his own hands when a vicious killer gets away with murdering his family. Nothing will stop him from delivering the justice denied him by the law he vowed to uphold. But when the killer kidnaps a judge’s daughter, his childhood sweetheart, he must decide if any price is too high to exact revenge.
San Antonio socialite Sophia Maria Osbourne doesn’t trust easily. With a dirty politician and a blackmailing judge for a father, she learned not to rely on anyone but herself. But when her father’s shady dealings lead to her kidnapping, she must place her faith in the man who stole her heart long ago, if she hopes to survive.
Excerpt: Chapter One
Outside of San Antonio, Texas
The idea of a lynch mob normally rubbed Garret Ryder wrong, but for the first time, he reconsidered. Should one form once they reached San Antonio, Garret could almost convince himself to turn a blind eye. Almost. The three day trip from Eden seemed to drag. Escorting a mouthy prisoner didn’t help matters any.
Sid Gerard leered, peering through the bars of the paddy wagon. “Did New York City turn you into a greenhorn, Ryder? Or a yellowbelly like yer brother?”
Garret ignored the prisoner and kept his mare at a steady pace next to the transport. Eden’s deputy kept the wagon on course, leaned over to spit on the ground, and wiped his mouth on his dirty, rolled up sleeve. “Gerard is jist trying to rattle ya, fancyman.”
“I’m well aware of what Sid is trying to accomplish,” Garret shot back, grimacing at the man’s lack of manners.
The deputy chuckled and nudged his comrade sitting next to him on the bench. “He even talks fancy.”
Garret lowered his black felt hat and squinted under the noon sun, trying to ignore the three men as best he could. “It’s called an education, deputy. We’re a few miles out of San Antonio. I would appreciate all chatter kept to a minimum.”
The deputy laughed. “Is that another way to say ‘shut the hell up’?”
Muted earth tones surrounded him, the only color being the cloudless powder-blue sky that stretched for infinity. A fine grain-like sand dusted the air. Sparse grass and prickly yucca plants dotted the trail, while the occasional mesquite tree jabbed into the horizon, standing watch over them as they traveled.
Garret checked his pistols for the second time in a half-hour and rolled his aching shoulder muscles, hoping to ease the tension. Apprehension slid along his spine. Transporting Sid Gerard, the same man who’d killed his father and nephew, had gone entirely too smooth. He’d expected trouble from Sid’s family, and so far he’d found none.
Perhaps he was too anxious.
After a twenty year feud with the Gerards, Garret longed to put Sid away behind bars, and shut this chapter of his life so he could return to New York City where he belonged. He’d left Texas behind years ago, so why the hell had he returned? And why the hell had he stayed over the last year? He still couldn’t seem to answer those questions. But he was determined to get this over with so he could return to some semblance of normalcy in his life.
All he knew was his father had needed him, but now with the death of his father, he was no longer obligated to stay. Assaulted by an image of blue eyes, he grimaced. He’d stayed because he owed his brother. He would pay up, then leave Texas for good.
He’d volunteered to prosecute Sid in San Antonio. He needed to make sure the bastard never got out and tortured his family again. Then, and only then, could he feel as if his debt had been paid in full. Although repaying his brother would never eradicate the nightmares. It would never erase the image of those blue eyes that haunted him every night.
“Do you really think this wagon will hold me?” Sid leered through the bars. “You won’t have Gade here to protect you. When the bullets start flying, who will you have in your corner, greenhorn?”
“I wasn’t aware you knew how to aim, Sid.” Garret cut a quick, narrowed glance at his nemesis. “If I remember correctly, you couldn’t piss your way out of a boot.”
Sid lurched forward with a growl. “I’m gonna enjoy killin’ you when this is all over and done with. And your brothers.”
“When this is all over and done with, Gerard, you’ll be locked behind bars where you belong or twisting from a tree.”
“We’ll just see about that,” Sid said, swinging an arm out from between the bars as he tried to seize hold of Garret. “You better be glad I’m locked up.”
“I only regret not gagging you first.”
Heat poured over Garret in buckets, and his head throbbed in tempo with the steady clod of the horses’ hooves. He’d hated to leave the ranch when his sister-in-law was about to have her first child. He wanted to be there for his brother, but he needed to make sure Sid got what he deserved: a dank, dark cell and meager rations.
Last year, Sid had ambushed their trail drive to the northern markets, and his nephew Luke had gotten caught in the crossfire. Losing Warren’s son had torn asunder whatever precarious peace his family had acquired. The least Garret could do, was put the killer behind bars where he belonged. He owed Warren that much at least.
The day Sid had shot their father had been the breaking point for the Ryder boys. There would be no peace between him and his brothers until the killer had been put away. His family needed to mend. And Garret would do whatever it took to make sure that happened.
San Antonio loomed on the horizon, and they rode into town accompanied by blessed silence. The group headed for the main plaza as the wagon wheels crunched against the rock-strewn drive and kicked up a cloud of dust behind them. Alameda Street turned into Commerce before they crossed the bridge. The wagon rumbled against the wood planks like thunder as the San Fernando Church steeple jabbed into the skyline ahead of them.
Turning right onto Soledad, the deputy pulled up short in front of the courthouse. A small crowd of people gathered just outside the doorway. Garret dismounted and looped the reins of his mare to the hitching post.
The jangle of keys brought his attention to the deputy. “Don’t open those doors yet,” Garret warned.
“I want this walkway cleared and the local sheriff’s men posted at either end of this street. Sid Gerard doesn’t leave that cage until I say so. Eden’s sheriff assured me I would get complete cooperation on this.”
“All right. Yew the boss, fancyman.”
Sid chuckled from behind him. “Gotcha all knotted up, Ryder? You scared I’ll get away?”
Garret whirled, seized Sid’s collar, and yanked him forward until the criminal’s forehead banged on the metal bars. “Fear has little to do with it. Let’s get something straight. The next time I have to chase you down, I’m going to forget that I’m a man of the law. Comprende?”
Sid lost his smirk, although it flickered briefly. Garret released him and set about making sure his orders were obeyed. There would be no mistakes. He’d make sure of that.
Judge Osbourne came abreast of him and clapped him on the back, dragging Garret’s attention away from the prisoner. “I’m so glad you made it safely, Garret. It’s been too long since I’ve seen you, son. I can still remember when you were little and toddling around your father’s legs.”
Garret’s smile faltered. “Yes, those were good times,” he lied. My life has never been full of good times.
The judge’s springy white brows drew together. “I must say I was sad to hear of your old man passing. I lost touch with the people in Eden after my daughter and I moved here years ago,” Judge Osbourne said, his Georgian twang as smooth as molasses, and he squeezed Garret’s upper arm in condolence. “James was a good man.”
A shaft of pain pierced Garret’s chest. “Indeed he was.”
“I say, you should open a practice here in town. We could use a good counsel like you, Garret.” The older man leaned closer. “Most of the lawyers in town are as crooked as the criminals they represent. I’d be honored to have a man like you in my court.”
Garret pasted on a fake smile. Not in a million years. “Well, I believe after the Gerard case, Your Honor, I’ll be heading back to New York. Mother lives there and she’s slowing down a bit. I’m not sure I should leave her alone anymore.”
“Understandable. Family always comes first.” The judge nodded, raising his gold-handled cane in response. “Well, should you ever change your mind, you just let me know, young man. I’ll help you get settled.”
Garret lowered his brows, making sure to recover his usual nonchalance. “Thank you, Your Honor.” They shook hands, but the judge held firm as the gold ring on his fat fingers glinted under the sun’s rays.
“Do me a favor, will you?” the judge asked, his dark eyes grave.
“Anything.” Garret forced a smile. What the hell could the judge possibly want from him?
“Would you mind escorting my lovely daughter home? I have to deal with this nasty Gerard business and don’t have time to do it myself.”
Surprise widened Garret’s gaze. Fraternizing with the judge’s daughter right before the trial got underway could potentially make things more difficult for him, especially a case as sensitive as this one was. “Sir, I don’t think that’s wise... I certainly mean no offense, but...”
Judge Osbourne gave his hand a good squeeze. “I certainly can’t fault you for your caution. You’re a man of meticulous control, and I admire that, but you don’t worry a bit about this hearing. Understand?”
Garret’s mouth dropped open, but he recovered. Before he could argue with the man, the Judge hailed his daughter from inside the dressmaker’s shop, and Garret found himself speechless for an entirely different reason. He’d never forgotten a name or a face. And Sophia Maria Osbourne had a face as unforgettable as any he’d ever seen before.
And yet, even after years away, Sophia stunned him into silence. His heart lurched inside his chest as she strolled toward him. The dark red-and-white striped bustle day dress hugged a figure only God could recreate. Dark ringlets tumbled across one shoulder under the tiny red hat she wore. “Mr. Ryder, what a pleasure to see you again. It’s been entirely too long.” Delicious ruby lips smoothed across her features in a teasing grin as she held out one dainty gloved hand. Exotic whiskey-colored eyes blinked under sooty lashes. High cheekbones and a small regal, nose bespoke of her mother’s Spanish origins. She was simply the most sultry beauty he’d ever seen. “Has the cat got your tongue?” she jested with a smile.
He leaned over and kissed the top of her gloved hand. “If only a pretty smile were all it took to render me speechless, Miss Osbourne.”
He’d just been given complete reassurance that his case was in the bag, as long as he took care of the Judge’s daughter today. And while he certainly didn’t mind the view, it would mean accepting a bribe, which would make him no better than the criminals he prosecuted and put away.
I’m a man of the law. The right thing would be to refuse the judge. But what would happen to my case if I did? Especially a case that was so close to his heart.
© Suzie Grant