~Home. Samantha Carleton dreams of such a wonderful place, somewhere permanent, somewhere safe to simply be herself. Her life wasn’t easy by any measure, always to her knees in creeks and mud, hot on the trail of the
next gold nugget. Danger lurked in her day-to-day existence, her well-being dependent upon the rough miners and greedy outlaws they encountered believing her to be a teenage boy.
Ever since she budded into a beautiful young woman, Sam’s pa has dressed her as male to keep her from unwanted attention. But when his love of whiskey causes him to ramble on about his ‘son’ Sam’s keen ability to locate gold, she finds herself taken hostage by the worst kind of lowdown criminals.
When Sheriff Trace Wallace goes undercover to find out who’s been jumping claims, he overhears a plan cooked up by two lazy greenhorn outlaws to kidnap and enslave an older boy to pan for them. Rather than see the kid who is labeled a menace about town placed in jeopardy, he offers his help in bringing Sam to heel.
But Sam is no picnic to handle and in their many struggles Trace soon discovers the unruly boy is in fact a beautiful but tough woman who not only helps him bring in the bad guys, but also ensnares his heart.
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~~“Why didn’t you tell them I’m a woman?”
“Are you a woman, Sam? I didn’t notice.”
“Liar. You got yourself a good eyeful, didn’t you? I saw the look on your face.”
He turned to her. “I didn’t tell them because I figured you have your reasons for dressing that way. I’d personally like to know why a woman would do such a thing.”
“Well, I guess I can answer you that much at least for keeping my secret.”
Trace gazed into jade eyes that were large and clear.
“Oh, it going to cost you more than that,” he declared.
Sam’s eyes widened at his statement. She’d certainly like to know what he meant by that. Likely she had him pegged right—he didn’t tell because he wasn’t sharing.
“What are you getting at?” she asked nervously. “I won’t barter like a saloon girl for your silence.”
Trace held her gaze for a few seconds. To reassure her, he smiled then looked at her head. He had to know. “I want you to remove that piece of a hat.”
Sam narrowed her eyes at him in confusion, but if that was all he wanted, she wouldn’t argue. She raised her hand and undid the string fastening it tight.
The sunlight caught the many colors held captive under the darkness of the hat. He sucked in his breath at the thick mass wound tight to the top of her head.
It was a right shame she chose to cover it.
Maybe it was the outlaw he portrayed that spawned the compelling urge in him. He wanted—no, needed—to see it loose and flowing around her shoulders.
“Take it down,” he ordered.