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Authors: Relentless Passion

Thea Devine

BOOK: Thea Devine
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SEDUCTION AND SURRENDER …

“Go back to your ranch, Logan,” Maggie said finally. “There’s nothing for you here.”

“Nonsense, Maggie. I plan to camp out in town until I have you where I want you.”

“You’ll never get me anywhere I don’t want to be, Logan Ramsey.”

“I wouldn’t issue such challenges, Maggie; I can be pretty persuasive.”

His words sent a shudder through her.

“Persuade someone else then. You want a ranch woman, Logan, not a town woman who’s used to running her own life. You need someone to share your life, not fight it.”

“Are you going to fight it, Maggie?”

His question hung in the air between them. If only she could tell him: she wanted everything … and nothing. If he could possess her without conquering her, if he could love her without needing her always, if he would just kiss her….

He didn’t even need an answer. His mouth found hers unerringly and she sought him with equal eagerness. She held him for the moment, demanded his kiss just for the moment, and savored him as if she were going to die tomorrow….

Relentless Passion

Thea Devine

 

 

 

Copyright © 2012, Thea Devine

Chapter One

It was a year to the day that Frank Colleran had been shot to death, but the first thing that Maggie Colleran thought about when she awoke that morning was that she had not seen Logan Ramsey in a long time.

It wasn’t necessarily that she wanted to see him, she thought; it was just the idea that he existed and that he was in Colville, and that sometime she would see him, or he would see her, or he would come if she were in need, as he always had.

Thinking of Logan made her smile because
he
always smiled; he almost always found humor in everything—except when Maggie lost the baby—Frank’s baby. Logan had stayed by her bedside and held her hands to infuse them with his warmth and strength, and with the confidence in his sky-blue eyes that could never lie to her. He had said she would be all right, and she had been.

And when Frank had died so mysteriously, so violently, he had come and held her in his arms, had told her that he knew she would get through it, and she did. Then he had gone away for all this time, and yet she found comfort in the knowledge that he was somewhere close by. For some reason she needed to remember that this morning.

But there was nothing much different about this morning than any other morning. She thought about what was to come in the day ahead. She would arise as usual at six, dress, and go downstairs to the office, make the coffee if A.J. were not already there, and she would spend the day dealing with the thing that had occupied most of her waking hours recently: the coming of the Denver North railroad extension.

It was not a solvable problem: the surveyors would come and they would find everything feasible and there was nothing she could do about it. Nothing. But she had to try. She felt like a helpless moth, futilely beating her wings to avoid the inevitable.

She was cursed, she thought, with the ability to see the negatives when everyone was lauding the positive aspects of the trunk line passing through Colville. The worst of it was that she was one of those who stood to gain the most: the Colleran ranch was right on the survey route, and Denver North wanted it badly.

That
she could do something about; it gave her a sweet feeling of power even though she still did not know what she was going to do about it.

She never heard the brisk rap at her door and was startled by the sudden appearance of her mother-in-law, looking like a venomous black crow in her mourning clothes, fully dressed right down to the somber black bonnet with its concealing veil draped over the broad brim.

“Of course you’re preparing to attend church today,” she said testily as she barged in.

Maggie rose slowly upright against her pillows to give herself time to figure out what Mother Colleran was talking about. “I expect,” she murmured as she wrapped her arms around her legs, “that
this
morning I will.”

Her mother-in-law stared at her suspiciously.

She stared right back.

Mother Colleran said finally, coldly, “The memorial service for Frank was listed right in the church notices that
you
wrote yourself.”

Maggie’s heart dropped for a split second with unrepentant guilt as her mother-in-law had obviously intended; she
had
forgotten the date. “Of course,” she said coolly, “and I remembered all about it.”

“The
early
service.”

“I suggested it myself,” Maggie said calmly, not moving a muscle. “I will be ready to accompany you.”

“I sincerely doubt it,” her mother-in-law muttered. “I just hope to God Reese gets here in time for the service.” She eyed Maggie distastefully. “Just wait until Reese comes home.”

A flash of anger rippled over Maggie’s composure and she ran a tense hand through her wildly tumbling black curls in order to give herself time to quell it. “You’ve been threatening me with that for months,” she said finally. “I can’t imagine how you think things will change when—and if—Reese Colleran turns up in Colville.”

“They will,” Mother Colleran stated unequivocally, as if by force of her will it would happen. “Reese will make everything right.”

Maggie froze. “Make everything
right?
” she repeated incredulously, feeling pushed to the limit by this unusual confession. “Make
everything
right? Make
what
right, Mother Colleran?
What?

She pushed back the cover and swung her legs over the side of the bed. Her smoky eyes turned stony as they narrowed on her mother-in-law, and she began to walk forward to press her advantage, filing away for future reference Mother Colleran’s horrified expression as she backed away from her.

“What can Reese Colleran
do?
He can’t bring back Frank.”

Her mother-in-law recoiled as though she had been struck physically.

“He can’t bring Frank back from the dead,” Maggie repeated willfully, and her mother-in-law turned abruptly and fled from the room, slamming the door emphatically behind her.

Maggie leaned the weight of her slender body against the door wearily. What
had
she been planning, she wondered; what was she hoping? And why would Reese Colleran suddenly decide to return to the family fold after all these years, when he had been the one to leave when his shenanigans had finally been too much even for his indulgent father?

More than that, why did her mother-in-law think that the threat of his return would scare her?

She walked slowly back into the room and sank onto her bed. Damn! she had forgotten about Frank’s memorial service. How on earth was she going to get through this day? The whole morning would be devoted to eulogizing Frank, the man she had married and come to hate.

Twenty minutes later, dressed in a dark gray velvet suit trimmed in black, she ran downstairs with just enough time to take a sip of coffee while she tried on and discarded several matching hats. Nothing pleased her. “Damn,” she murmured, throwing off the last one.

“A.J.,” she called through the connecting door to the office.

His kindly face appeared immediately. A.J.’s bulky body was encased in a rusty black suit. His white hair was combed punctiliously back from his ruddy face, which was lined with years of experiences about which she would never know. His watery blue eyes crinkled up into a smile. “Ma’am?”

She looked at him helplessly, holding a black velvet hat by its frail netting in one hand and her cup of coffee in the other. She didn’t know why she had called him, but it occurred to her suddenly that she could not ask him to make the choice for her. Frantically she searched for another reason for her summons. “Is there a notice up that the office will be closed?”

“Yes, ma’am. Right on the front door. Says we’ll be closed till noon. Jean made it up yesterday and you didn’t have to worry none about it,” he assured her in his softly slurred voice that was so formal and courtly.

“I suppose I didn’t; no one would dare want to do business when he could attend Frank’s memorial service,” she said, more to herself than him. “And how will you go?” she asked him, knowing full well that Mother Colleran would never permit men whom she considered no better than servants to share a carriage with her. The matter of their loyalty to Frank and now to her held no weight with her.

“Jean hired a buggy, ma’am. We can splurge a little on this special occasion. We’ll be there, ma’am, don’t you fret none about that.”

She nodded, set her coffee cup down, and turned back to the mirror as he withdrew.

“I
have
to wear a hat,” she told herself grittily as she jammed the scrap of velvet onto her tightly braided hair and tied it under her chin. How different she looked, all constricted and constrained by combs and velvet ribbons and buttons to her neck, and by the tight black velvet waistband encircling the fashionable narrowed skirt of her suit.

When she finally pulled the veil forward to obscure her features she felt as though she had created a Maggie in Frank’s image of her, someone who could hide behind the stiff contours of her clothes and the soft impenetrable folds of the gauzy veil that she arranged so
carefully around her squared shoulders.

She looked, she thought as she surveyed herself in the hallway mirror one last time, like the woman that Frank Colleran had assumed he was marrying.

The woman she had never been.

She turned away from the image abruptly, picked up her cape, and made her way to the side entrance by the carriage drive where Mother Colleran awaited her.

The old woman stared at her disapprovingly as the driver helped her in. “Never,” she snapped, “do you ever have a sense of the appropriateness of things. This is Frank’s memorial service, for heaven’s sake. You look like you’re off to do a day’s work.”

“So I am,” Maggie said quietly, folding her hands on her lap and surreptitiously clenching them.

“Are you indeed?” Mother Colleran’s eyes narrowed. “Then I say again it’s good and well that Reese is coming home. I count myself fortunate that I was able to contact him before he took off for some other God-forsaken part of the world.”

Maggie’s flinty gaze swung back to her mother-in-law.
She
had summoned Reese Colleran? This was news, and not welcome news either. Why would her mother-in-law need this ally so badly that she would stoop to begging him to return to Colville after all these years?

“I still can’t imagine what Reese Colleran could have to do with me—or you, for that matter,” she said coldly, and turned her head again to stare out of the window as their hired driver snapped the horses into motion.

Damn Reese Colleran, she thought viciously. There hadn’t been a day that Mother Colleran did not throw his name up to her,
every
day, it seemed, for the last few months.

Or had it been since Frank’s death?

No. She swung her gaze back to her mother-in-law. The old woman’s face held an expression of smugness.

What
was
she expecting of this outcast son?

Maggie made a mental note to ask Dennis Coutts and turned her attention to the scenery as the carriage began making its way up the ridge to the church, which hunkered like a huge stone giant on two large plots of land in the center of the residential district.

The town fathers had planned its location to be well within walking distance of town. Nonetheless, this day the long narrow road up the ridge was clogged with horses and carriages as well as people on foot, and Maggie made an impatient sound as the carriage jolted to a stop just within sight of the five towering trees that separated the church from the rectory and the cemetery.

Still further on she could see the milling crowd moving along almost as if it were one body. The number of people astonished her.

“I’m walking the rest of the way,” she announced disgustedly.

“You will not,” Mother Colleran contradicted. “You will not turn this ceremony into a travesty by
walking up
that hill with that crowd. You are Frank’s
wife
, and you will not disgrace him—or me—today.”

Maggie pulled herself up stiffly and opened the door of the carriage. “You, of course, as the mother of the man,
should
arrive in state, Mother Colleran.
I
would rather just get there and have this ceremony over with. Do excuse me.” She swung herself out the door and gracefully descended. She never looked back as she strode up the ridge.

There was a crowd in the church as well as outside. A buzz greeted her as she entered and took her place in the Colleran pew. She never was sure when her mother-in-law finally arrived; she felt her heavy presence suddenly and heard her slightly labored breathing. Within ten
minutes she was bored with the Reverend Dailey’s speech extolling Frank Colleran’s virtues, and she was almost sure she could hear her mother-in-law purring with delight as every one of them was meticulously ticked off.

Yes, yes, Frank was a community leader, and not coincidentally a regular church contributor, an exemplary husband and son. Every one of them thought so; there wasn’t a person in Colville who did not idolize him for his good works and his fellowship.

Maggie made a good pretense of listening as she surreptitiously glanced around. Everyone had come, all the townspeople and the neighboring families she had grown up with—the Rennerts and the Perezes, and Annie and Sean Mapes, both of whom acknowledged her with a nod that told her they had come to the service out of respect for her and not Frank. Up front, Dennis Coutts signaled her with a raised eyebrow as he caught her glance, and further back, in a corner, she just glimpsed A.J. and Jean Vilroy, uncomfortably dressed up and squeezed in next to Harold Danforth, chief proponent of the railroad expansion. Danforth looked pompous and full of himself, and not happy that he had not gotten a seat up front as befitted his standing in town.

All of her old friends had come, in fact, except Arwin Bodey, who ran the general store, and Logan…. She felt a little trip of her heart as she realized that Logan might not come at all.

The service lasted a full hour and a half. Afterwards, Reverend Dailey came immediately to her side, feeling he also must minister to the grief he knew she must be feeling. She was thankful her veil still shielded her face as she answered his solicitous inquiries with barely concealed impatience.

“I assure you, I’m quite fine.”

He looked shocked. “But—”

She had to amend that impetuous statement quickly. “I have thrown myself into my work,” she explained further, “and that has mitigated a lot of the pain. I have tried to carry on as I thought Frank would want me to,” she added. As usual, the talisman words worked, reassuring him as they were intended to do. She went on with a touch of irony, “It has helped me to feel closer to him. I felt—” she paused a moment before uttering the final lie, “he would want me to.”

In point of fact, she thought bitterly, he had never wanted her anywhere near the newspaper office. If he had been able to have his way, he would have immured her at the run-down shack that was the Colleran ranch.

Reverend Dailey reacted just as she knew he would. “Only, of course, until you find someone to take over for you. Yes,” he murmured sympathetically, “I’m sure that was exactly what Frank would have wanted you to do. Not to mourn but to carry on. That was the kind of man he was, Maggie, as you know best of all of us.”

BOOK: Thea Devine
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