Rustled - By BJ Daniels
CAST OF CHARACTERS
Dawson Chisholm—The cowboy got more than he planned on when he caught one of the rustlers stealing his cattle.
Brittany Bo “Jinx” Clarke—If you let this cowgirl get her spurs into you, you’re in for a wild ride.
Rafe Tillman—He liked to think he was the head of the rustling ring, but was there someone else giving the orders?
Hoyt Chisholm—Was it just bad luck with wives? Or was he guilty of murder?
Emma McDougal Chisholm—The fourth wife believed in her husband. Or was she just setting herself up to be his next victim?
Aggie Wells—The former insurance investigator was still missing and presumed dead—at least by most people.
Hank Thompson—He’d left the Double TT Ranch to his only son. But it came with strings attached.
Lyndel Thompson—He was running the Double TT into the ground.
Buck Clarke—Had the ranch manager known too much? Or was he just in the wrong place at the wrong time?
McCall Crawford—The sheriff had her hands full as it was with rustlers and missing women and baby making.
Dawson Chisholm reined in his horse to look back at the ranch buildings in the distance. This was his favorite view of the Chisholm Cattle Company. He’d always felt a sense of pride and respect for the ranching empire his father had built.
Today, though, he felt the weight of responsibility on his shoulders for the ranch and feared for his father—and the future. Someone wanted to destroy not only what Hoyt Chisholm had built, but Hoyt himself.
“I’m going to ride up into the high country and check the cattle on summer range,” he’d told his five brothers. They knew him well enough to realize that as the oldest brother he needed some time alone after everything that had happened.
They’d been at the main house sitting around the kitchen table this morning, avoiding the dining room since their father had been arrested for murder and their stepmother, Emma, had taken off to parts unknown.
The house had felt too empty, so they had all moved back in even though they had their own houses on the huge ranch. When their father’s new bride, Emma, had come to the house two months ago, she’d required them all to show up freshly showered and changed for supper every evening.
No one questioned Emma’s new rules, which included no swearing in the house and bowing their heads in prayer before supper. In the weeks since she and Hoyt had wed, she’d made a lot of changes at Chisholm Cattle Company.
That was until the body of Hoyt’s third wife turned up and he’d been arrested.
Dawson still couldn’t believe it. There was no way his father was a murderer. Unfortunately, given the evidence against him and his wealth, the judge had denied bail and Hoyt was now sitting in jail in Whitehorse awaiting trial.
Emma… Well, she’d packed up and skipped town with only a short note saying she couldn’t do this. It had broken their father’s heart. Hoyt Chisholm had looked older than his fifty-six years when Dawson had visited him yesterday evening. He’d taken the news about Emma even worse than Dawson had thought he would.
“Emma wouldn’t just leave,” his father had argued. Emma had been nothing like his father’s other wives. Redheaded with a fiery temper, plump and annoyingly cheerful. Her stepsons hadn’t wanted to like her. But she’d won them all over and their father clearly adored her.
“She left a note, said she couldn’t do this and packed up all her stuff and was gone when we got home,” Dawson said, unable to hide his own anger—and not just at Emma. His father had gone off to a cattleman’s meeting in Denver two months ago and, after a quick stop in Vegas, had come back with a wife. Why was his father surprised the woman would leave, under the circumstances?
“Listen to me,” Hoyt said, leaning forward behind the thick piece of bulletproof glass as he spoke into the phone provided for inmates to talk to visitors. “Emma wouldn’t leave. You have to find her.”
Dawson didn’t need this. He and his brothers were having a hard enough time running the ranch without their father. He had a lot more important things to do than find his father’s fourth wife.
But, he had to admit grudgingly, he’d liked Emma and maybe that was why he was so angry with her for bailing on their father.
“Where would you suggest I look? Is there family I can call? Friends? Is she