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Author Lorana Hoopes

A Second Chance at Love Signed Paperback

A Second Chance at Love Signed Paperback

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A Twist of Fate!

William Cook enjoyed serving the town as a lawman until a tragic accident took everything he loved. Wanting to leave his past behind, he turns to bounty hunting, enjoying the constant distraction—and the money isn’t too bad either. When he suffers a life-threatening injury, he is forced to stay put for longer than he is used to doing. The woman who tends his wounds intrigues him, but he isn’t looking for love after what happened the first time.

Emma Stewart recently lost her husband and has moved back in with her widowed father, the town doctor. While she likes helping him heal the sick, she still longs for a family of her own, so no one is more surprised than she is when she starts to develop feeling for the bounty hunter, who hides his heart of gold behind a rugged exterior.

Can Emma offer William a reason to stay? Can William find a way to heal from his broken past to start a future with Emma? Or will a haunting secret take away all the possibilities of this budding romance?

First Chapter

Sage Creek, Texas 1883

William “Wild Bill” Cook smoothed his black duster and stepped through the swinging batwing doors into the saloon. His eyes scanned the bustling, noisy room for the slim, bearded man whose face he had memorized from the Wanted Poster, but he didn’t appear to be in the room. Of course, that meant nothing. Sometimes the men tried to disguise themselves or hide in low lit corners. Occasionally, he even found them upstairs with one of the saloon girls, if they had the money. Once he had even found a mark pretending to be a saloon girl. Not the brightest one as he hadn’t seemed to realize his full beard was a dead giveaway. It didn’t matter. Wild Bill Cook always got his man.

He sidled up to the bar, pulled his black hat low on his eyes, and ordered a Whiskey. He wasn’t a big drinker - his wife had hated the stuff - but he found one drink honed his senses and allowed him to survey the room without standing out too much. The last thing he needed was someone recognizing he didn’t belong and warning Frank Monroe. The man was a cattle thief and deserved to be behind bars, but no man liked the prospect of jail time and most fought tooth and nail not to go.

When the drink slid his way, William picked it up, trying to ignore the cloudy film on it - Catherine would roll over in her grave if she saw him drinking from such a cup - and adjusted his position so that his back was to the bar.

A heated poker game was taking place at a table across the room, but a closer look ruled out any of those men. Another few men sat at a table closer to his position, tossing back beers, but they were all too large to be his mark. His eyes continued to scan left, but after coming up empty, he finished his drink and turned back to the bartender. Monroe must be hiding out upstairs then.

“Who do you have working tonight?” William asked the bartender. “It’s been a long ride, and I’d like to unwind.”

The long-haired bartender smiled at him, revealing a bottom row of crooked teeth, one a slightly brownish color. “What’s your flavor?”

William shook his head as he spun the glass on the counter. “I’m not particular. What are my choices?”

The bartender scanned the room. “Looks like we have two blondes, Nellie and Lizzie, down here which means Minnie, my brunette is upstairs, engaged in other business.”

“I guess I’ll take a blonde then,” William said.

“Nellie,” the bartender hollered across the noisy room. He cocked his head in a “come here” gesture, and a moment later, a plump woman appeared at William’s side.

Her long hair was pinned to one side and curled. Bright red lipstick covered her lips along with a dark rouge. A blood red dress trimmed in a black fringe hugged her frame a little too tightly, sending her extra flesh rolling over the top. William forced his eyes to remain on her face.

“You looking for a good time, honey?” she asked, laying a hand on his arm.

William resisted the urge to shake her hand off though its mere touch sent repulsion coursing through his veins. She was his ticket upstairs, and he could swallow his revulsion a moment longer to apprehend his man.

“Sure am. Are you good at giving one?”

“I’m good at everything, honey.” Her voice flowed like silk out of her mouth, but it had no effect on William. He hadn’t been with a woman since the death of his wife, and he wouldn’t until he married again. IF he married again.

“Lead the way then,” he said, pushing the glass back to the bartender and standing. Nellie headed for the back stairs, sashaying her ample hips as she walked. William kept his eyes peeled for Monroe as he followed her, just in case he had missed the man in his initial scan. It didn’t happen often, but William stayed alive by always checking twice if the opportunity presented itself.

With each step, the wooden stairs groaned under his weight and William held tight to the railing as he climbed. The top of the stairs opened into a small hallway. Two doors were on the left and two were on the right, but all were closed. How was he going to determine which room Monroe was in?

“Do you girls all have a regular room?” William asked, hoping her answer would let him know which room Monroe was in.

“Sort of,” Nellie said with a shrug, “but there are three other girls, so we have to share.”

Not helpful. He’d have to be more direct. “Which one is Minnie’s regular room?” William narrowed his eyes as he listened, but he heard no sound coming from any of the rooms.

Nellie’s smile faded, and she crossed her arms, her flirtatious manner shifting to one of distrust. “Are you here for Minnie or for me?”

William scanned her face. He didn’t know her, didn’t trust her, although in honesty, he trusted no one, but he had little choice but to ask for her help if he wanted any chance of surprising Monroe. “Honestly ma’am, I’m here for the man who is with Minnie. If you can point out her room, I’ll pay you for your time.”

Nellie’s eyes widened, and for a second, William was sure she was going to bolt and run to the bartender, but then her face shifted as if realizing she could get paid without having to work and she smiled. “Sure, her room is the second one on the left.”

William tipped his hat and headed that direction. His right hand fell to the hilt of his revolver as his left turned the handle. Monroe and a brunette turned his direction as the door opened.

“Run, Frank,” Nellie shouted from behind William.

A look of surprise followed by a flash of fear crossed Monroe’s face before he rolled out of the bed and dove for cover. With a grumble, William whipped his gun out. This was not the encounter he’d planned, and he hated when things didn’t go according to plan. “Frank Monroe, you’re coming with me. You’re wanted for stealing cattle.”

The brunette pulled the sheet around her and let out a blood-curdling scream that distracted William just enough that he didn’t see Nellie run up behind him until it was too late. She rammed him with her shoulder, sending him into the door jamb.

A shot went off, followed by two more female screams. William thought at first that he had fired his gun when Nellie hit him, but then the searing pain just above his clavicle hit him. Monroe sat on the floor, his gun smoking in his hand. William tried to raise his arm to fire a shot, but it would no longer obey his command.

As soon as Monroe realized he had the upper hand, he scrambled up, but before he could make it very far, the thunder of footsteps reached the second floor.

“What’s going on here?” the bartender demanded, splotches of red lighting up his face and emphasizing the scar that resided there.

“That’s Frank Monroe,” William said, gritting his teeth through the pain. “He’s a wanted man, and I’m bringing him in. This one ought to be under arrest for abetting a felon.” He pointed at Nellie with his left hand, trying to ward off the darkness that was creeping in on his vision.

“You can’t arrest my girl,” the bartender roared.

“Actually, we can,” a male voice said from behind the bartender. Before the darkness won the battle, William noticed a star pinned to the man’s chest. At least his man wouldn’t get away.

* * *

Emma -

Emma was just finishing wrapping the bandages when the door of the clinic swung open. Deputy Jennings and Sheriff Johnson stepped in, supporting a dark-haired man between them. Blood ran from a hole in the skin above his clavicle.

“Pa,” Emma hollered for her father and then turned to the men, pointing them to the cot in the front room. “Who is he?” she asked as her father thundered into the room.

“A bounty hunter. He was trying to apprehend Frank Monroe when he was shot.”

“Emma, get me a wet rag,” her father said as he crouched in front of the cot. “I can’t see the wound through all the blood.”

Emma grabbed a clean towel and soaked it in the wash basin. After giving it a quick wring out, she hurried it over to her father.

He began wiping away the dried blood and cleaning out the wound. The unconscious man moaned but his eyes remained closed. Emma bit her lip as she watched the blood continue to pour out of the hole. Having grown up watching and helping her father, she wasn’t squeamish about injuries, but watching people die was something she would never get used to. She didn’t know if his wound was fatal but gunshot wounds often were. 

“Can you pick him up?” her father asked. “I need to see if the bullet exited the other side.”

The two men did as he asked, and Emma peered over their shoulders. There was an exit wound, slightly larger and spouting even more blood, but it wasn’t as large as she expected. She had little experience with gunshot wounds, but she was almost certain not all of the bullet had come out the other side.

“Emma, get my glasses and the tweezers please.”

Emma hurried over to the desk and grabbed his glasses off the top, then opened the drawer to find the tweezers, returning quickly with both.

Her father put the glasses on and peered closer to the wound before taking the tweezers and poking inside the wound. A few metal fragments dropped onto the bed beside the man. Her father made another pass, but this time the metal instrument returned empty.

“I’m afraid there are more fragments,” he said, shaking his head sadly, “but I can’t see them. The best I can do now is stitch him up and hope for the best.”

“And pray,” Deputy Jennings added.

Her father nodded and motioned for Emma to grab the needle and thread. She sent up a silent prayer for the unknown man as she did. After splashing a little alcohol on the wound, her father began to stitch first the entrance and then the exit wound. If the man survived, he would have quite the scar. He was lucky the bullet had hit where it had. Any further down and it would have shattered his clavicle. A little to the left and it would have torn open his neck. Somehow the bullet had managed to slice cleanly through only flesh, missing both muscles and bones.

“I’m afraid that’s all I can do for him,” her father said as he finished. Emma handed him a clean towel to wipe his hands on. “Did you at least catch the fella for him?”

“We did,” Sheriff Johnson said with a nod. “We also had to bring in Nellie Watson too as she evidently warned the fugitive and attacked the bounty hunter here. We’ll have to find out what that was about.”

“Indeed,” her father said. “Well, I’ll stay with our friend here tonight, and we’ll see how his condition is tomorrow. As long as we avoid an infection, he should heal, but it’s a good thing you brought him in as quickly as you did.”

The sheriff and the deputy tipped their hats before exiting the clinic.

“Why don’t you head home, Emma? I’m sure the others will be wanting dinner soon.”

The others consisted of her four younger siblings. Samuel who was twenty, Carrie at sixteen, Benjamin who was twelve, and Jennie brought up the rear at six. It had been Jennie’s birth that had taken their mother, and Emma had stepped in to be the mothering role. It was probably one reason why she wanted children of her own so badly.

Carrie was old enough now to be taking on the homestead responsibilities. In fact, she had taken over when Emma married, but after Joseph died and Emma moved back home, Carrie had let Emma take over cooking dinner and putting Jennie to bed again.

“Okay, Pa, let me just soak these towels so the blood doesn’t stain.” Emma gathered the bloody cloths and dumped them in the wash basin. Hopefully, the soak overnight would remove the blood and she could scrub them in the morning. “Will you be home at all tonight, Pa?”

“No, I’ll probably stay with him tonight. I don’t know if he’ll make it through the night and no man should die alone. You can take my place tomorrow and I’ll get some sleep then.”

“Okay, Pa.” Emma hugged him and planted a quick kiss on his cheek. “See you in the morning.”

The sun was just dropping below the buildings as Emma exited the clinic. Normally she loved the red, orange, and purple that colored the West Texas sky like a vivid painting. Some days, she would spend her time pondering the greatness of God to create such a beautiful tapestry of colors, but tonight her attention was consumed by the unknown man.

Who was he? Did he have a family waiting for him somewhere? The thought of him dying in this town where no one seemed to know who he was saddened her. Emma thought back to the night Joseph had told her he was taking a job with the Rangers.

“Why do you have to go?” she asked.

“It’s my duty,” Joseph said. “When I signed up with the Rangers, it wasn’t just to protect the town I live in. It was to be available for service whenever needed. This time, they need my help rounding up a dangerous man. He’s robbed and tortured dozens of people. Those people need my help.”

Emma bit her lip. She knew his Ranger position was important to him, but they’d only been married a month and now he was leaving. “Do you know how long you might be gone?” she asked in a small voice.  

“As long as it takes,” he said, planting a kiss on her forehead, “but my best guess is a week, maybe two.”

A week. She could handle a week. The day would keep her busy with cleaning and sewing. Maybe she could even help her father out like she did before she married, but the nights were another thing entirely. She’d be alone in the house, but she would be brave. For Joseph. She pasted what she hoped was a brave smile on her face. “Okay, be safe, and remember that I love you.” 

“I love you too.”

The week had turned into nearly two and Emma had lain awake each of those nights wondering if he would ever come home. And then her worst nightmare had come true, and the night had come when she’d received word that he would never return home. Was there a woman somewhere right now worrying as Emma had back then?

“Hi, Emma, I hope you don’t mind, but I started dinner,” Carrie said when Emma entered the house a few minutes later. While one day she hoped to have her own house again, for now, Emma enjoyed living right on the edge of town. It allowed her to walk to her father’s clinic without having to bother with a horse.

“Of course I don’t mind. You’re welcome to make dinner any day you’d like.” Emma smiled at her younger sister. “You are an amazing cook.”

“Well, I’m not as good as you,” Carrie said, blushing and dropping her head, “but you had Ma around a little longer to learn from.”

Emma wrapped her arm around the girl, a younger version of herself with long blonde hair and green eyes. “I’m sorry you didn’t have Ma as long as I did, but you are just as good a cook as I am. Maybe even better.”

“Emma!” Jennie’s excited voice echoed through the small house, and a moment later, the girl appeared, her dark hair flying behind her. Jennie was the spitting image of their mother with her brown hair and blue eyes. While Emma couldn’t fault her for it, seeing Jennie always pulled at Emma’s heartstrings and made her miss their mother more.

“Hi Jennie Bean,” Emma said, squatting down to hug the girl.

“I’m not a bean,” Jennie said laughing. Though this was a nightly game with them, Jennie never seemed to tire of it.

“You’re not?” Emma feigned surprise.

“No, I’m a girl.” Jennie put her little hands on her hips and turned her nose up in the air.

“Well, be a good girl and go call your brothers in for supper.”

Jennie nodded and spun on her heel, hollering as she went. “Benjamin, Samuel, supper’s ready.”

“Not quite what I had in mind,” Emma said with a chuckle and a shake of her head.

“Is Pa not coming for dinner?” Carrie asked as she headed to the kitchen.

“No, there was an altercation at the saloon tonight and a man was shot. Pa is staying to watch him and be there in case he passes in the night.”

Carrie’s hand flew to her mouth, and her eyes grew large and round. “Oh, how awful.”

Emma nodded. “It is, and I keep wondering if he has family out there somewhere wondering where he is.”

“Did it remind you of Joseph?” Carrie asked as she pulled dishes from the cupboard.

A sad smile played across Emma’s lips. “It did, but then a lot of things remind me of Joseph.”

“Do you think you’ll ever marry again?” Carrie asked in a soft voice as she dished up the stew.

“Maybe one day,” Emma said, taking the full bowls to the table, “if God sends me the right man.” Her heart would always belong to Joseph, but she couldn’t deny the desire to have a family of her own.

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Lorana Hoopes

Lorana Hoopes is a USA Today Best Selling Author and now an Award Winning Author as well. She's had two books earn a Page Turner Award Finalist badge and she recently won the Reader's Favorite Book Award for Romantic Suspense.