The Bounty Hunter's Redemption

Free The Bounty Hunter's Redemption by Janet Dean

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Authors: Janet Dean
come to look after Anna’s interests, to make sure Carly wasn’t trying to convince Anna to give up the shop.
    Mr. Sergeant threatened Carly’s very existence. Well, the years she’d spent living under a man’s intimidation had made her strong. She would not surrender the shop without a fight.
    * * *
    Nate leaned against the shop counter, legs crossed, trying to appear at ease, as if the conversation he wished to broach was of no consequence. Otherwise Carly might raise those defenses of hers and refuse to hear him out. But inside he was coiled tighter than an overwound spring.
    Getting anywhere in Gnaw Bone required a lot of jawing. “I’m looking for someone you might know,” he said, his tone casual.
    “Strange as it may sound to a man like you, I don’t rub shoulders with criminals.”
    So much for keeping this female tinderbox calm . “That’s the last thing I’d think. I’m talking about a woman, not an outlaw.”
    Carly’s stormy-sea eyes softened from forged steel to hard-packed clay. “I’m sorry. That was rude.” She took a breath. “Why do you want to find this woman? Is she a friend of yours?”
    “No. An outlaw I’m pursuing supposedly has a lady friend in the area.”
    “In Gnaw Bone? This is a peaceful little town.”
    “Has a stranger come into the shop in the past several months?”
    “Folks pass through. I can’t know everyone.” She took a sip of tea. “What does this woman look like?”
    “I don’t know.”
    “Show Carly that wanted poster,” Anna said.
    Nate didn’t want to jeopardize his investigation, but if Stogsdill should accompany his floozy into this shop, Mrs. Richards, her son and Anna would be at risk. “Can you keep this to yourself?” he said. “If word gets out I’m looking for this rogue, his lady friend might warn him away.”
    “You’ll just have to trust me. If he’s in the area, I should know what he looks like.”
    Tamping down a sigh, Nate removed the wanted poster from the pocket of his vest, then unfolded and laid the crumpled paper on the table.
    Carly stared at the sketch of Stogsdill’s handlebar mustache, sideburns and long lashes, in sharp contrast to his lifeless, cold eyes.
    “He might look different. He could’ve shaved off the facial hair,” Nate said.
    “I’ve never seen the man.”
    Anna laid a hand on Carly’s arm. “I hope you never do. Shifty Stogsdill is a heartless killer.”
    “From reports of bank robberies he’s been involved in, I don’t believe Stogsdill is here now. But, perhaps you can help me track down his female friend,” Nate said.
    “I want this rogue caught, but I don’t see how I can help.”
    “Do you remember a customer who looks different than most?”
    “The ladies who frequent my shop are not about to be attracted to an outlaw.”
    “Perhaps she doesn’t know he’s an outlaw. Perhaps—”
    “Don’t pester Carly. If she knew anything, she’d tell you.” Anna rose, walking to where Nate leaned against the wall, her gait more unsteady than usual. “You’re obsessed with catching Stogsdill. Won’t have peace until you do. Well, I won’t have peace as long as you’re putting your life at risk.”
    “You know why I have to bring him down.”
    “Bring him down ?” Anna lifted a palm to his cheek. “‘Vengeance is mine...saith the Lord.’”
    “The law will avenge, not me.” He shifted on his feet. “Once I capture him, I’ll give you the reward money.”
    “No amount of money could take your place!” A sob escaped her lips. “I’m sorry. I...I need a moment alone,” she said, then limped to the back.
    Carly Richards leveled Nate with her gaze. “Are you so hard-hearted you don’t care Anna fears for your safety?”
    Her words battered him like an uppercut to the jaw. But he couldn’t rest until he’d caught Stogsdill and knew Anna would be taken care of for life. “Of course I care. My concern for Anna is the reason I want her to have this shop.”
    “Paint a pretty

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