The Sheriff Of Heartbreak County. Kathleen Creighton
After all I’ve been through, everything I’ve sacrificed, to have it all undone by some small-town back country sheriff with a great big murder to solve…
“I’ve given you my gun and my blood—what else can you possibly want?” she asked.
“Well, for starters,” the sheriff drawled as he folded his arms on his chest, “I’d sure like to know your real name.”
The world darkened. A rushing sound filled the inside of her head. Her voice caught, and then she said, “My…my name? I don’t know what on earth you mean.” But she’d waited that critical heartbeat too long.
The sheriff’s eyes narrowed, and his features suddenly hardened, formed the face of a man nobody would care to cross. “Oh, sure you do,” he said. “We both know you’re not Mary Owen. So that brings me back to my question—Who the hell are you?”
A few years back, in a book called An Order of Protection, I introduced a character named Mary Yancy LaVigne, a girl who falls for the wrong man, for all the wrong reasons—and for which sin she pays dearly by getting sent into lonely exile in the witness protection program. I knew even then that one day Mary Yancy would have her own story. It’s taken me until now to find a man special enough to make it up to her for treating her so badly.
I hope you’ll agree with me that Sheriff Roan Harley is such a man, worthy of both the love of a courageous and beautiful woman, and of the awesome land that spawned him.
Come join Roan and Mary now, as they strive to find the happiness, peace and everlasting love they both deserve. It’s a difficult quest, played out against a backdrop of majestic Rocky Mountains and wide Montana skies. Here’s hoping I’ve done both the story and its setting justice.
The Sheriff of Heartbreak County
has roots deep in the California soil but has relocated to South Carolina. As a child, she enjoyed listening to old-timers’ tales, and her fascination with the past only deepened as she grew older. Today she says she is interested in everything—art, music, gardening, zoology, anthropology and history, but people are at the top of her list. She also has a lifelong passion for writing, and now combines her two loves in romance novels. Her book The Top Gun’s Return won the 2004 RITA® Award for Best Long Contemporary Novel.
Who brought the butterfly
that sits on my shoulder
On Florida’s Gulf Coast…
The telephone was ringing. Joy opened her eyes and saw that it was morning. Beside her, Scott stirred, swore and stretched out an arm to pick up the bedside extension. He growled, “Cavanaugh,” then lay back to listen, responding from time to time with monosyllables, while Joy lay on her side and watched him, drinking in the newness and unimaginable sweetness of the miracle of him. Happiness lay on her like sunshine. Yancy was safe. And Scott loved her.
She thought, maybe my karma’s finally changed.
Scott cradled the phone, lay back on the pillows and reached his arm around her to pull her close. “That was Agent Harvey,” he said.
“About Yancy?” Joy craned to look up at him. “Have they finished questioning her? When can I see her?”
“Joy…” He enfolded her in his arms, and her heart began to thump against his chest.
“What’s wrong? Scott? When can I see her?”
His sigh lifted her like a boat on a swell. “Sweetheart… I’m sorry. I’m afraid that’s not going to be possible.”
“Yancy’s going into the federal witness protection program,” he said softly. “Immediately. She’s a witness to the murder of the DelReys’ housekeeper and her husband. Plus, it seems Junior was really in love with her, and planned to marry her. He told her enough about the family business that she’s never going to be safe as long as any of the DelReys or their organization are running around loose. She’s got no choice, sweetheart. I’m sorry.”
“I can’t…” Joy swallowed, pain rushing into her chest and throat. “I can’t even…say good-bye?”
Scott shook his head, bumping her head with his chin. His voice was rusty with sympathy and compassion. “I’m afraid not. She’s already gone. They did it last night, right after she left you. It’s done.”
She was silent, weeping without shaking, without sobs. Scott held her, saying nothing, simply giving her his love…his strength.
Ten years later, in Montana…
The body lay as it had fallen, arms outflung, eyes staring into the wide Montana sky fabled in story and song. Except for the hole in the center of his forehead the expression on the victim’s face was one familiar to all who knew him, an arrogant smirk that held no traces of fear or surprise.
Clearly, Jason Holbrook had not expected to die.
Not today, anyway, and for sure not like this, thought Roan Harley, duly elected sheriff of Hart County. Gunned down in his own driveway on a cool spring day like a mean and dangerous dog, which, come to think of it—and the sheriff knew he wasn’t alone in this opinion—described the victim pretty well.
“Tom,” he said gently to the deputy breathing heavily over his right shoulder, “if you’re gonna puke, I’d sure appreciate it if you’d find someplace away from the crime scene.”
“No, I’m good,” Deputy Tom Daggett said, a little too quickly and breathlessly for the declaration to be entirely reassuring. He glanced over at Roan, blushing right up to the band of his Stetson. “It’s just…I’ve never seen anybody shot dead before. Not like this. It’s…different, you know?” There was an audible swallow.
Roan did know. To be truthful, he hadn’t seen anybody shot dead before either, except for crime-scene photos in forensics classes he’d taken in college and a few refresher courses after getting elected sheriff. And his deputy had it right—all the car wrecks, hunting accidents and bar fights in the world didn’t do much to prepare a man for violent cold-blooded murder.
“In that case,” he said to Deputy Daggett, “hunker on down here. Tell me what you see.”
Frowning earnestly, the younger man squatted on his heels beside the body. “Okay, uh…you got two—” he coughed self-consciously. “I mean, the victim appears