The Sheriff’s Daughter and the Wanted Man (Preview)

Chapter One

Penelope Mitchel put down the sewing when her brother came into the room. “Have you finished it?” she asked as he threw himself onto the sofa.

“Sure did. It’s really good to paint something and know that somebody really wants it. I could do that for a living. It would be so good to sit at the easel all day.”

“Can I see it?” Penelope asked. He grinned and held a hand out for her to pull him up from the sofa. 

When they were together, it was obvious that they were twins, but Penelope had the darker brown hair. Carter had a dark blond look, and they both had the green eyes of their mother. 

Lisbet Mitchel stepped inside the room, wiping her hands on a cloth. She almost looked like their older sister.

“I’m allowed to look at the painting,” Penelope said.

“What about me?” their mother asked.

“Come on, then. I have to let people look at it some time.” Carter ran up the stairs and the two women followed more slowly. 

The bedroom that he used also doubled as a studio. Their mother had paid someone to put in extra windows to let the light fill the room as long as possible. There was an easel at one side with a cloth over it.

“Come on. The suspense is dreadful,” Penelope called out and her brother gave her his cheeky grin. “I know how you like to joke. There might be nothing at all under there,” she added.

He laughed and lifted the cloth. There was silence from his mother and sister. Penelope saw his anxiety rise.

“Carter. It has taken my breath away. This is the best thing you have ever done.”

“I have to admit that Penelope is right,” his mother added and stepped closer. “Constance Shields will be in tears when she sees this. They paid a fortune for the horse for her and she loves it dearly. You have made it almost seem as if it would step out of the picture.”

Penelope moved closer as well and gave her brother a hug. She loved her twin dearly and knew that he did not want to be a lawman or a cowhand. His heart was in art and books.  

“I forgive you all of the silly jokes when you do something like this. When her friends see it, maybe they will ask you to do the same sort of thing.” She turned to her mother.

“He really could make a living at this, Mama. He could go to college and learn about how artists work.”

“Papa wants me to follow him into the sheriff’s office,” Carter told his sister. He looked sad, and her heart went out to him. Penelope wished her brother could have the life he wanted. Her own life had been on hold for some time and she wanted her twin to lead the life he would like.

“Show your father the painting. It might make him think twice,” Lisbet told them.

“Thanks, Mama,” Carter replied and kissed his mother on the cheek. He put the cloth back over the easel and Penelope asked how much he was going to charge for the painting. He told her what he was thinking of asking.

“How long did it take you to finish it?” she asked. When she worked that out, even painting one per week, he wouldn’t make a living wage.

“I could work part time to make it up,” Carter suggested and she nodded.

“If you painted or did pencil sketches, the local shops might buy them. We are near to Dallas, where there are big stores and art shops and galleries. But,” she said and put her hands on her hips, “you would have to stop the jokes and take it seriously. I’ll help you sell them to shops if you can make a lot of them. Small ones would be cheaper and people would be more likely to buy them.” 

She looked at his face to see how he was taking the lecture. Because they were twins, she could almost read his mind. He grinned.

“Okay. The serious painter it now is. I will cover this painting and wrap it up to take to Mrs. Shields. Then I’ll start on the smaller ones tomorrow.”

“I will make you some cards to give out and put in the stores to say that you take commissions.”

He kissed her on the cheek. 

Her brother was the most important man in her life. There had only been one other man, and he was long gone. She went downstairs to let him wrap up the painting carefully but he followed her down to the kitchen and said he would leave the painting for his father to see. 

“I will keep it between two pieces of wood to keep it flat. Mrs. Shields will choose her own frame.”

He poured himself a coffee and sat at the table. Penelope sat opposite and handed him a notepad and pencil.

“Sketch me,” she told him and grinned. “And I don’t mean a funny thing with a big nose and no hair.” 

That made him laugh. He was very casual with a pencil in hand and she knew as she watched that he had no idea how good he really was. 

“There,” he said and slid it around on the table.

“That is a very good likeness,” their mother remarked as she looked over Penelope’s shoulder.

“It’s amazing. Can I keep it?” Penelope asked. “It took you about ten seconds to make the right lines. You could turn out a lot of them very quickly. What about flowers, cats, dogs or other people?”

Her brother took back the pad, sketched several flowers around the page, and put a rabbit in the center. Then he drew his father wearing a Stetson with a sheriff’s badge on his chest.

“These are wonderful,” Penelope said, “and they are so quick to do.”

“I can do some in watercolor, as well. Women seem to like those.” He stood up. “I’ll take the painting to show Father and then take it to Mrs. Shields.”

“I will walk along there with you and then do a little shopping. When I come back, I’ll start on the notes to give out.” 

The twins walked along to the main street and headed for the sheriff’s office. Down the street, a couple of men were talking, and Carter waved to them. They came closer.

“Howdy, Quentin. I’ll deliver this painting and then come and have a drink with you,” Carter said.

“What sort of painting?” the man with Quentin asked.

“My brother is really good. A lady asked him to paint a picture of her horse.”

“I’m going to show Papa and then deliver it to Mrs. Shields.”

“Let’s see it, Carter,” Quentin said and Penelope glanced at the man. She barely knew him as he hadn’t been in town for more than a year. 

He had dark hair and eyes, and she suspected some women would find him handsome. Her brother had made him a friend, but she detected an undertone of something like bullying in his demand to see the picture. 

Carter rested the picture on the sidewalk and slid away the cloth. The man with Quentin whistled.

“That’s impressive. Can you do a smaller one of my horse?”

“Sure,” Carter answered and wrapped up the painting. “I’ll have a look at your horse when we meet up for a drink. The sketch pad is in my pocket.”

Brother and sister went into the sheriff’s office and found their father and his deputy having a coffee.

“Howdy, Papa,” Penelope said and kissed his cheek. “Look at this picture.” 

The painting was unwrapped and the deputy reacted as Quentin’s friend had, with a whistle.

“You have a talent, son. Working at the mill is no life for you. I would much rather have you here to learn the job. You can still paint in your free time.”

“I’m not a lawman, Papa. You know that. I would be terrible at it.”

“You would be trained. It’s a good job and well paid.” He paused and sighed. “Have it your own way. I can never expect you to be sensible.”

Penelope stepped between them. “Papa, he’s so good at this. He needs to make his own way in life. I’ll go down with him to take the picture to Mrs. Shields. Come on, Carter.” 

She took his arm, but he shook it off and picked up the painting. Penelope didn’t look at her father. She always worried about her brother and wished the two men could get along.  

Her father turned away from both of them and picked up some papers on his desk. Brother and sister left together and walked in silence for a while.

“He never understands anything,” Carter said eventually.

“He’s a good sheriff and it’s just about all he thinks of.”

“You’re sticking up for him, but he never gave you a thought when Liam escaped and left you high and dry—and Liam was the only boy you ever wanted. Papa only sees facts and whether somebody is guilty. He would have hanged Liam and not cared about your heartbreak. The law isn’t for me and I know that. I would hate to send somebody to the gallows.”

“I know in my heart that Liam was innocent, but he escaped and never told me or wrote to me,” Penelope retorted. “Besides, we have to prove to Papa that we can make our own lives. You’re a painter in your heart and I will find someone to fall in love with eventually. Twins help each other, and that’s what we will do. Right?”

“Right,” he agreed as they stopped at a rather lovely house with stone columns at the porch and double doors leading inside. 

A servant came to the door and invited them in. She left them in the hall and went to find the lady of the house.

“What a treat,” Mrs. Shields said as she came down the stairs. “Don’t tell me that this is what I think it is?”

“I think it is wonderful,” Penelope said and nudged her brother. “Don’t keep the lady waiting.”

Carter unwrapped the picture, and Penelope was right. Tears came to the woman’s eyes as she looked at the horse that she loved so much.

“Carter, it’s exactly how he looks. I love it. Tell me how much I owe you.”

He mentioned the sum that he thought was reasonable. Mrs. Shields doubled it and clutched him in a big hug. Penelope grinned at him over the woman’s shoulder and he managed to free himself. 

“I’ll have a special frame made. Thank you so much.”

The two of them separated at the saloon and Penelope stopped off at the bakery to visit her friend Nellie. The place was quiet and Nellie told her mom that she was going out for a walk with Penelope. They strolled and looked at the stores, and finally sat on a bench that someone had kindly supplied at the gate to the church.

“How is everyone?” Nellie asked. “My folks are as busy as ever. Makes me tired just watching them.”

Penelope laughed and told her about the painting.

Chapter Two

In a small town called Greystone, Liam Miller had found a lodging house on a side street. The woman who owned it, Laura Pennock, bustled in with a plate of food.

“Come and eat it while it’s hot. You need feeding up,” she said and laughed. “I’m turning into an old woman and treating everyone like they are kids.”

“Thanks for treating me like a kid,” he answered and sat at the table. “Are you not eating?”

“Left mine in the kitchen. Some folk don’t want the landlady watching every mouthful.”

“Bring it in and keep me company,” Liam told her. “I haven’t had any company on the trail.” 

Laura went off to find her plate. Sometimes, Liam thought, you were lucky enough to meet someone who seemed kind. She came back and sat opposite him.

“How long have you been on the trail?” she asked.

“A couple of weeks. I camped out a lot and I can cook over a fire, but home-cooked food is a treat. This is wonderful.”

“Thanks. I can cook and sometimes I sell pies and cakes and things to the local store.” She paused to swallow her food. “What sort of work do you do?”

“I’ve mostly worked as a ranch hand and I have worked my way back here. I come from near Dallas originally.”

Laura asked no more questions. Clearly, the landlady didn’t want to pry into his business. He finished his plate and sat back. This place was comfortable and safe, and he liked Laura, an older woman of around fifty. She brought him some cake and a coffee.

“Have a seat by the fire,” she suggested, and he laughed.

“I might stay here permanently.” He paused and knew he was taking a chance. “I’m looking for a man called Quentin Hall.” He saw her face change and thought maybe he had made a mistake. But Liam had been more or less on the run for five years. He had learned how to stay safe. “Is that not something that I should ask?” 

She shook her head and took a second before answering. “Quentin Hall is bad news. His family came from here in the old days and his uncle ran a notorious gang of thieves and robbers. They eventually died out, I’m happy to say. My father had a small livery stable and they set it on fire when he wouldn’t do business with them. Those days are over, thank heaven.”

“Is Quentin not around here?” Liam questioned. The landlady shook her head.

“He’s always moving on, I’m glad to say. This town is a peaceful place and members of a gang around make folk uneasy.” She hesitated. “Why are you looking for him?”

Liam took a breath and a chance on trusting someone. “He framed me for something I didn’t do and I was left to take the blame for the gang. He took advantage of me, and I wish I had been more sensible. I was very young and taken in by these men who seemed to be friends.”

“He won’t help you. The man is a nasty piece of work, but he can be charming when it suits him. He will betray you and run away to keep himself safe.”

“Thanks for trying to help. If he’s not here, I’ll try and find somewhere to work.” He hesitated. “I think he had a child. I hope it’s safe.”

Liam thought back to the times that Quentin had told him that his wife had died in childbirth. It was the one time when Quentin had seemed to have some feelings of some kind. 

He let the thought sweep briefly through his mind that he had wanted children with Penelope, but that was never going to happen. Going back there would only give her more trouble. She would have been heartbroken when he went on the run without even letting her know.

“You look sad,” Laura said softly.

“I had a girl that I wanted to marry but when I ran away, I didn’t have the chance to explain why or where I went. Quentin ruined my life and hers as well.”

“I am sorry,” Laura said, and he could tell that she meant it. “Have a beer and sit by the fire.”

Liam did as she suggested and enjoyed the safety of a good lodging house. The chat had brought back so many memories. He wondered where he should go next to try to find Quentin Hall. He would still be planning robberies and keeping out of trouble himself.

Tomorrow, I’ll go to a few saloons and see if he’s anywhere local, he thought. Another thought came to him that it was dangerous but there was really no other option. Seeing Laura struggling in with a basket of logs for the fire, he asked if she needed more wood chopped.

“Oh, I do. It is hard work.”

“I’ll stack up a supply for you,” Liam said and took off his jacket. She showed him the pile of logs and he started to make a pile of firewood that would last her for some time. When he finished, she handed him another beer and he drank it down.

“Ready for a decent night’s sleep,” he told her and went up the stairs to his room. 

In his comfortable bed, Liam wondered how Penelope was feeling these days. 

“Maybe she met someone else,” he whispered out loud and it sent a shiver through him. He had never stopped loving Penelope. They had been childhood sweethearts and planned to marry. “She deserves to be happy, and I hope she is,” he added, “but I wish it was me that she could be happy with.”

He would keep looking for Quentin. That was the only way that he could lead a normal life again. 

*

In the morning, the smell of frying bacon drew him downstairs like a magnet. Laura smiled and put a heaping plate in front of him.

“Thanks,” he said. “Can I stay tonight as well, please?”

“Of course. It’s good to have some company.” 

He put on his jacket and checked his guns before going out into the town. It was a small town and seemed to be quiet. He strolled down the main street without worrying about being seen. His escape and flight after he was framed was five years behind him now, and he was pretty sure that he wouldn’t be recognized. 

After getting a look at the place in general, he stepped into a saloon and ordered a drink. He stood against the bar and looked around the room. There was a poker game going on even though it was early in the day.

“Have they been playing all night?” he asked the barman, who grinned and nodded.

“Mad as dogs,” he said. “Wish I had that sort of money to throw around.”

“Me too,” Liam agreed and talked with the man for a while. The saloon was quiet, and after some time, Liam asked if he knew where he could find Quentin Hall.

“Be careful there,” the barman warned. “He’s moved on and we’re relieved.”

“Thanks for the warning. Did he have a child by any chance?”

“Yes, a little boy. He’ll bring the lad up to be another crook.”

“Sad,” Liam said. He paid for the drink and went off to stand in another saloon and then the bar in the hotel.

He had left the last drink unfinished and asked in the hotel for a sarsaparilla. He had no desire to let something slip and end up in Quentin’s clutches. He sat in the lounge bar of the hotel and watched the world go by for a short time—until he saw Marlon Dalton go to the bar. 

Marlon knew Quentin, although he wasn’t part of the gang. When the man turned from the bar, Liam waved, and Marlon came over with a smile on his fae.

“What on earth are you doing in these parts?” he asked and sat at the table beside Liam.

“Making my way back home somehow,” Liam told him. “Is Quentin still around here?”

“It was a bit too hot for him. He moved on to your old hometown.”

“I would have thought that was too hot as well,” Liam answered, and Marlon nodded.

“He always keeps himself off the wanted list, although the sheriff there would be after him.”

“So, why did he go there?” Liam was truly amazed that Quentin had gone back to Watten Halt.

“I think they were planning a robbery either in the town or on the railroad in the area. I didn’t want to know about it.”

“Did he have the little boy with him?” 

Marlon nodded again. “Nobody mentioned it, and I think he had lost his temper a few times. The kid always looked frightened, and if he spoke, Quentin clipped him across the head to keep him quiet.”

“That’s a shame for the lad. What a way to grow up.” Liam was really sorry for the youngster but there was nothing to be done.

“They’re looking for hands at the ranch where I work,” Marlon told him, but Liam shook his head.

“I have to try to find him and stay out of sight myself. Good to see you again,” he said as he finished the sarsaparilla. He went out into the street and wandered back to the lodging house. He did a few more chores for Laura and had an early night.

“I have to go back there,” he told himself in privacy of his bedroom. “It’s a risk, but I have to clear my name.”

He left the lodging house in the morning and told Laura he would stay there again on his way back.

“Take care,” she told him. “I know, I’m being an old woman again.” 

He mounted up and waved as he rode away. The trail was quiet and he passed nobody until he was close to Watten Halt, when he stopped to talk to a man with a wagon of vegetables. There was no real news, and he didn’t ask about Quentin. His plan was to look out for the outlaw and not be seen himself. 

When he reached the outskirts of Watten, he went around behind the houses and knocked on the back door of the leather worker’s home. Jamie Laidler was an old friend who wouldn’t turn him in. 

“Good Lord above,” Jamie said. “Is it safe for you to be here?” He opened the door to let Liam step inside.

“No, it’s not safe. I thought you might let me sleep on the sofa.”

“I think I can find a bed,” Jamie said. “It’s good to see you looking well, but why take the risk?”

Liam accepted a coffee and sat by the fire. “Tell me how Penelope is first,” he asked, and Jamie smiled.

“Still single and living at home, but I rather think that she’s not happy.”

“Not happy about what?” Liam questioned and started to worry. His heart was still with the woman he had loved from childhood, and now that he was close to where she lived, he wanted to run over there and wrap her in his arms.

“Her father still wants Carter to be a deputy, but Carter is still refusing. He works at the timber mill and I hear he’s painting as a part-time job. He’s an artist, not a lawman. I can see why he doesn’t want to be a deputy. Penelope agrees with him. She and her father don’t see eye to eye.”

“Maybe she will talk to me again if she knows that I had to go away. I have to try to clear my name.”

“How can you do that?” Jamie asked.

“Find that brute Quentin and make him tell the truth.”

“He’s in town, and his gang are around as well. I’m guessing that they are planning something.”

“If I can offer to help him, he might do a deal.” 

Jamie shook his head. “Far too dangerous. Go away while you can and write to her. Tell her the truth and she might come with you.”

“I can’t do that. I ran away without seeing her.” Liam was sad and felt almost defeated. He accepted the bed from Jamie and put his horse in the stable. 

In the morning, he would find Quentin Hall.


“The Sheriff’s Daughter and the Wanted Man” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!

Penelope Mitchel’s world shatters when her childhood sweetheart is accused of robbery and vanishes after a daring jailbreak. With a hard-hearted sheriff for a father, her only solace is her close bond with her twin brother. But when her brother is kidnapped five years later, and her father refuses to act, Penelope is thrust into a desperate situation.

Will she summon the courage to defy her father and rescue her brother alone?

Liam Miller, who fled five years ago after breaking out of jail, believes Penelope has moved on and would never want to see him again. Now, re-arrested and unexpectedly freed by Penelope, he finds himself drawn back into her life and heart determined to make things right.

Can Liam prove his innocence and protect the woman he has never stopped loving?

As Penelope and Liam find comfort in each other’s arms, they also face the urgent task of proving Liam’s innocence and rescuing Penelope’s missing brother. Together, they confront challenges and dangers, determined to overcome them. Will their love withstand the trials ahead, or will they be torn apart by the looming threat of the train robber?

“The Sheriff’s Daughter and the Wanted Man” is a historical western romance novel of approximately 60,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.

Get your copy from Amazon!

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