The Marshal's Hostage - By Delores Fossen

Chapter One

Marshal Dallas Walker studied the three men milling around in front of the Maverick Springs church. All were dressed in nondescript black suits, but judging from the bulges beneath their coats, they were carrying weapons.

So, what were armed guests doing at a wedding?

Joelle’s wedding.

Just thinking those two words put a knot in his gut, and seeing those armed men only made the knot even tighter.

Something wasn’t right here—on many levels.

Dallas eased his hand over the Glock .22 in his holster and walked up the limestone path that led to the front door. As expected, he got the attention of all three men. They snapped toward him, and one whispered something into the communicator that he had strapped to his wrist.

The biggest one, a bald guy with linebacker-size shoulders, stepped forward to block Dallas’s way. “Are you a guest of the bride or groom?” he asked, none too friendly.

Dallas debated his answer for a split second and decided to go with what would get him inside the church the fastest and with the least amount of trouble.

If that was possible.

He tapped his badge, which was clipped to his belt. “I’m Marshal Dallas Walker. Move or I’ll move you.”

Yeah, it wasn’t very friendly, either, but at least he’d given them an option. Of sorts. One way or the other, they were moving.

The man’s jaw turned to iron, and he glanced at the one with the communicator. That one lifted his wrist and was about to say something into the device, probably something that would cause an ugly confrontation with these goons and the groom. But the squeaky sound and movement behind them had them all reaching for their weapons.

False alarm.

The sound was coming from a window being lifted in the century-old church. And there she was.


She looked out at him from behind the mesh window screen. No wedding dress, but she was wearing a white robe, and the April breeze took a swipe at the dark blond hair she had piled on her head. She gave all of them a glare.

Especially Dallas.

“What are you doing here?” she snapped.

“Seeing you,” Dallas snapped right back.

And for good measure, he returned the glare, too. It wasn’t hard to do. Once, when he was seventeen and stupid, he’d been in love with Joelle Tate, but it sure wasn’t love he was feeling right now.

Far from it.

He wanted to wring her neck.

“We have to talk,” Dallas insisted, and he elbowed his way through the trio of guards and hurried up the church steps.

He was on borrowed time now because it wouldn’t be long before the groom, Owen Palmer, found out he was there, and Owen would not be a happy buckaroo about Dallas’s arrival.

Get in line.

A lot of people wouldn’t be happy about this little visit, but by God, he was not going to let Joelle get away with this.

Since his foster father, Kirby Granger, had brought Dallas and his brothers to this church plenty of times, Dallas knew the way through the mazelike corridors to the side room where Joelle was. He found her, all right. Waiting for him in the doorway.

And she was still glaring.

“Owen and I are getting married in an hour,” Joelle informed him.

That sentence sounded as unright to him as the armed guards and the big fat diamond ring on her finger, but the wedding wasn’t the reason for his visit. Nope. If Joelle had fallen in love with a weasel like Owen, then they deserved each other. Dallas had written her out of his life ages ago.

He took her by the arm and moved her back into the room. “We’ll talk fast.”

That definitely didn’t help her glare. “Owen will be here soon.”

“Then we’ll talk faster.”

There were two women in the room, both wearing flowing yellow dresses, and he figured they were Joelle’s friends from Austin, where she’d lived for the past four years or so. One of them was holding a big puffy wad of silk and lace.

The wedding dress, no doubt.

Dallas turned to the women and hitched his thumb to the door. “I need to talk to Joelle alone.” And yeah, he added some attitude to that request because he wasn’t taking no for an answer.

The now wide-eyed women looked at Joelle, obviously waiting to see if it was safe for them to leave. With her glare still fastened on Dallas, she nodded.

“We’ll only be a minute,” Joelle explained, making it sound like a threat. To him.

The woman holding the dress eased it onto a chair as if the darn