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-ONE HEART- By Rosalyn Alsobrook
Zebra Historical Romance, 4/97
From Chapter One Peshtigo, Wisconsin, 1871
. . . But Wiggles had no intention of ending (the chase). Eventually the dog darted between the front legs of a tall black horse harnessed to a heavy wagon, causing the animal to rear with fright. The wagon jerked forward which in turn caused the man standing in the back rearranging a load of supplies to tumble over the side and hit the sawdust covered street with a hard thud. Several small crates in the wagon spilled over on top of him.
Looking understandably furious, he stood and dusted first his hat then his clothing with his several hard swipes.
Brenna (Nelson) was still half a block away but close enough to note that the tall, broad-shouldered man appeared even more annoyed when Wiggles then bounced over to yap excitedly at his boot heels. With an irritated huff, the man slapped his hat back onto his head then snatched up Wiggles with one strong hand. He looked at the dog with a mixture of rage and befuddlement, as if trying to decide just what the hairy creature was.
Wiggles fell immediately silent.
"Excuse me, sir," Brenna commented, coming to a hesitant halt a few feet away. She chewed nervously on her lower lip when she saw just how furious this man was--and rightfully so. He could have been seriously hurt. As it was, his pantleg was torn at the knee, his clothes dirty, and his hat looked dented on one side. "That's my dog."
"This is a dog?" Lifting a dark eyebrow, he turned the little fur ball side to side as if trying to find some char-acteristic that might verify the fact. His mouth twisted to one side, forming a long groove in one lean cheek.
"Yes. And he's a bad dog," she added, shifting nervously when she noticed how very handsome the angry man was--despite the smudge of dirt on his left cheek. "And I'm sorry he caused your horse to jump like that. Here, let me help you put these things back on your wagon." Hoping to soothe his anger, she bent to pick up one of the smaller crates. The rattle of broken glass caught her attention.
Having also heard the clink, the man still one-handing her dog dropped dark, silky lashes over his pale blue eyes for a moment. The muscles shaping the back of his hard, lean jaw pumped in and out with a maddening rhythm. Finally, the long, silky eyelashes parted again, but his face remained taut and his expression grim. He shoved Wiggles in her direction. "Here, just take your dog and go away." His voice sounded deep and commanding as he emphasized each syllable. "I'll take care of the damage he's caused."
"But he's broken whatever is inside this crate. I should replace it for you." She jiggled the crate and grimaced again at the rattle of broken glass. "Just tell me how much the contents were worth."
The man pulled in a long, unsteady breath, held it several seconds then slowly released it. Clearly, his composure had neared the dissolving point. "That won't be necessary, madam," he continued with distinct clarity. "Just put the crate down, take your animal, and go away." He continued to hold the now docile lump of fur out to her. "Now."
"You don't have to be so rude," she responded, studying the man inquisitively. She tried to decide from his strong build and trendy clothing what he did for a living, for he had the body of a lumberjack but was dressed like and had a hair style more in common with a businessman. Even with the battered hat covering much of his head, she could tell his dark hair was as fashionably cut as his coat. Undoubtedly, he was a man of some means--and judging by confident the way he carried himself, he knew it. "After all, I did apologize and offered to repay you for your loss."
"And I decline both," he snapped then drew in another deep, steadying breath before continuing in a slightly calmer voice. "Look, madam, I have had a very trying day. All I want to do now is to load these things--whether broken or not--back onto my wagon, and try to make it home before dark."
"Then I should help you," she insisted. But in her attempt to put the crate up, she fumbled and dropped it again. When she stepped back to try once more, her foot landed in the middle of another such crate, shattering the contents.
Wiggles cut a quick gaze at the man who still held him, and who cringed at the sound of yet more glass breaking. Clearly, he had reached the end of his patience. "I cannot afford any more of your help. Just take this dog as you refer to it and go, before you do further damage."
Aware she had made the situation worse, Brenna took her dog and stepped back onto the boardwalk, out of the man's way, while he hurriedly gathered the beleaguered crates. She stared at him a moment, trying to decide whether to be understanding of his ill temper, or angry herself . . .
QuotesMs. Alsobrook delivers with a story of action, suspense, and love."
---Rona Weisburg, reviewer, Affaire De Coeur.
"Ms. Alsobrook weaves elements of love and mystery through her fiery tales."
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