Keeping secrets
Book 1 Undercover heroes
Historical Romantic suspense

Malden Grove, Illinois has no idea the trouble headed its way…

A daughter hell-bent on avenging her father….
A handsome stranger with secrets of his own…..

A case of mistaken identity and a situation that has them both KEEPING SECRETS in a town where everyone is interested in everybody else’s business.



Would the damn room ever quit spinning? Jeremy Loud tried to focus. His hand roamed his taut flesh instinctively searching for the site of his discomfort.

“What the hell?” he sputtered as he reached the bandage on his side, his breathing ragged.

He paused, confused. Was he delirious? Could he trust his own sense of touch? Jeremy explored the softness of a woman’s hand.

“Mr. Loud. Please. Lie back down.”

Slowly, the room came into focus, and he looked up into the green eyes of what he could only describe as an angel.

Her hair flowed softly around a delicate face and looked as if it had been kissed by the sun itself.

“Please Mr. Loud!” she pleaded. “You’ll start bleeding again.”

The pain from his wound paled against the sheer torture of her fingers as they brushed ever so lightly against his skin. He tried to sit up, but she easily forced him back down onto the bed. Then he felt her fingers brush lightly against his forehead.

“You’re burning up!” She grabbed a cloth, dipped it into a bowl then blotted his forehead with it.

Yes, he was. He could feel the heat as it radiated off his body. It was a good thing his body was well covered from her view, or she might realize it was passion and not a fever that stoked the fire of his flesh.

Jeremy reached for her. He could only reach one of her wrists, so he eased her closer and closer to him as if he were going to speak to her.

Their lips were only inches from one another when he wrapped his fingers in her hair and pulled her even closer. His pulse quickened. He felt no pain, just energy surging through his veins.

Chapter 2

Jeremy Loud woke with a start and sat bolt upright in bed. A peculiar smell filled the room.

He looked around, disoriented at first.

There were frilly window dressings on all four bedroom windows that to his knowledge hadn’t been there the day before.

Even more to his surprise, he noticed there were several of a woman’s unmentionables spread out on a chair beside the bed.

Anxious for an explanation, he shoved the covers to the side and bounded out of bed like a jackrabbit jumps out of a hole, a move he regretted the moment the pain hit him.

Though he didn’t remember undressing, he stood in front of God, in the spill of early-morning sunshine, bare as a newborn.

His britches were nowhere in sight, so he snatched up a quilt and wrapped it around his waist.

“What’s that awful smell?” He regretted saying it the moment it left his lips.

Startled, the woman dropped the spoon she’d been stirring with.

His eyes widened in surprise. The woman from his dream, the angel, she was standing in his kitchen.

All five feminine feet of her, stretched out before him like a king’s banquet.

Once again, he could feel his blood begin to race. Then he remembered all he had to show for their night together was a rectangular scrap of gauze and one hell of a headache.

He wondered how such a demure creature could be capable of such rough love play.

“Where the hell are my clothes?”

The woman leaned down and picked up the spoon. “Your shirt was in tatters. I made rags out of it. Your pants are over there on the table….”

Details from the night before were still sketchy, but there was one thing he did remember, a telegram from Quincy Davenport. He’d stashed it in his coat pocket on his way out of the telegraph office.

“My coat! Where the hell is my coat?”

The nameless woman dipped the spoon into the big pot then lifted the sopping glob of material where he could see it. “Here,” she said.

“Do you know what you’ve done?” His grip tightened on the quilt as he started across the room toward her.

“Pardon me,” her voice matched the intensity of his. “I wasn’t aware that removing blood from your coat was a crime.” She flung the coat at his feet, “take it,” she sputtered then ran past him and out the back door.

Kneeling beside the coat, Jeremy rummaged through the pockets, but they were empty.

He looked everywhere. The table, the chairs, above the fireplace, it was nowhere.

He gathered the quilt back around his waist and looked around. He couldn’t very well go after her looking the way he did, so he snatched his britches on. They were still damp, but would have to do. He couldn’t afford to let her leave until he got that telegram.

He had to walk fast to catch up with her.

“Well, did you find whatever you were so bent on finding?”

“I did not!” he answered sharply. Who was this woman and why the hell was she at his cabin?

She was obviously not a barmaid like he’d first assumed. If Davenport was onto him, she could be one of his famous tests of loyalty?

Regardless, this situation required careful handling, and he knew that meant he’d have to try and keep his temper in check. He didn’t like the idea of having to follow her lead, but he didn’t know what else to do.

“What the hell happened to me anyway?” he asked, trying to refrain from his usual bark of interrogation.

Hands on hips, eyes flashing, the woman took two steps toward him putting them toe-to-toe. Just who do you think you are?”

“What?” he asked confused, not exactly sure by which, the question or her eyes. She had bewitching green ones, cat-like and dangerous, big, round and the kind a man could get lost in.

He couldn’t understand why he hadn’t noticed them before. No doubt, she was a beauty. He was beginning to think that following her lead might not be such a bad thing after all.

“What gives you the right to use that sort of language in my presence?”

“Exactly what sort of language would that be?”

“Profanity, Mr. Loud. Profanity is a tool of the devil, and you use it well.”

He wasn’t sure, but he thought she’d just called him the devil. He studied the woman for a moment. It was hard to imagine her being involved with the likes of Davenport, but he, better than anyone else, knew that money was a strong motivator and could make a person do things they’d otherwise die to avoid.

“You’re right,” he conceded. “My apologies, Mrs….? He edged closer.

“I do owe you an explanation. I’m Magen Miller. There was an accident yesterday, and you were hurt. It was my fault, and so I intended to stay with you until you recovered.”

“That’s why you were cooking my coat?”

“I was not cooking your coat!”

Jeremy couldn’t help but smile. Everything he said riled her. He’d never met a woman with as much spunk. Maybe, if he had, things would have turned out differently.

“When you were “soaking” my coat, did you happen to find a telegram in one of the pockets?”

“You mean this?” Magen pulled a folded white paper from the pocket of her apron and handed it to him.

Carefully, he unfolded it and read to himself the message: June 10. 5pm Dearborn Tavern. “Damn!” Jeremy shoved the paper into his pocket. “Why didn’t you tell me you had this?”

“You didn’t ask.” Magen held out an ornate gold pocket watch. “Here, you didn’t ask about this either.”

“Thank you,” he said softly. “It was a gift from my wife. I’d have hated to lose it.”

“Excuse me. I’ve got something I’ve got to do.”

He would never understand women. He’d drawn that conclusion early on, but despite the wisdom of his youth, he’d never stopped trying. She didn’t walk. She RAN into the woods toward the river, and he had an uneasy feeling she was running from him.

The gold pocket watch glistened as he held it up in the sunshine. Even dwarfed in the palm of his large hand, its brilliance was evident.

It was still an exquisite timepiece. Sarah had given it to him on their second wedding anniversary, the same night she told him of an even greater gift held within her womb. Jeremy flipped the case open with his thumb and read the inscription: “February 14, 1859. My love for you is timeless, Sarah.”

It seemed like only hours had passed, not ten years. A lot had happened since that night in Virginia: the War, the abolition of slavery, even, the assassination of President Lincoln.

When he’d finished, he slipped the watch into his pocket with the telegram, blinked back the moisture at his eyes, and turned toward the cabin.

Once inside, Jeremy knelt beside the bed, face toward the floor. The shiny, silver blade slid perfectly between two wooden floorboards.

A quick downward motion and the heel of his hand made contact with the ivory colored bone handle.

The bounty waited, tools of the trade: clean revolver, a stack of counterfeit one hundred-dollar bills and an engraver’s plate.

He’d been supposed to meet Davenport the night before. It had taken him two months of hard work to set everything, and damned if he would let a freak accident stop him.

As he strapped the tooled leather holster around his waist, a pain shot up his side. Undaunted, he slipped the revolver into its place.

He hoped his little accident hadn’t cost him more than a few days of discomfort. Davenport was a shrewd businessman and trusted few people. Now, he’d understandably view him as unpredictable and a potential hazard to his organization.

Jeremy replaced the board and returned to the kitchen, where he wrote a quick note, just in case she came back.

“One might be reading a Zane Grey novel, or perhaps one of Louis L’Amour’s works. That’s how pleasant it is to read this
Tammie Clarke Gibbs’ novel.”
Carl Wilson- Florida