Brett (The Morgans of Rocky Ridge)
Lawyer Brett Morgan has big goals, including becoming mayor of Rocky Ridge and eventually, territorial governor. The only problem â€“ the town council wants the mayor to be a married man, and Brett has no intention of marrying a woman he doesnâ€™t love even if she is a â€˜suitableâ€™ politicianâ€™s wife.
Lucy Hart â€“ with her dusty trousers, flannel shirts and callused hands â€“ plans to work the Two Harts Mine until the day she dies. She has no real education and no other way to earn a living, and she canâ€™t imagine any man being attracted to her.
When Lucyâ€™s future is threatened by two men who claim her father sold the mine to them before he died, she hires Brett to help her prove the deed they have is a forgery.
Even though Brett and Lucy are opposites in almost every way, their attraction to each other is undeniable. Can they prove the mine legally belongs to Lucy? And will Lucy and Brett deny their mutual attraction, or can they find a common ground and follow their dreams together?
Brett Morgan leaned back in the chair behind his desk in Rocky Ridgeâ€™s only law office. His gaze drifted to the sheet of paper in his hand, then lifted toward the window looking out onto the main street. Through the dusty glass, a few puffy clouds dotted a cobalt blue sky. Wagons rolled by, raising clouds of dust. Muffled voices and the sound of footsteps on the sidewalk filtered through the walls of his office as shoppers hurried past. Childrenâ€™s laughter reached his ears.
He smiled. The noise and activity outside meant the town was growing. And that meant a future for him. The election of a new town mayor was coming up, and heâ€™d decided a few days ago he was interested in the job. All he had to do was sign the piece of paper in his hand. So why was he hesitating?
He knew he had the support of some of the more influential residents in town, but others were more reluctant. Their main issue was the fact he wasnâ€™t married. They wanted a mayor who they considered â€˜stableâ€™, a family man. He understood that, but he wasnâ€™t about to marry a woman he didnâ€™t love just to make the town council happy.
Hell, heâ€™d only met two or three women lately who were educated and refined enough to handle being a politicianâ€™s wife, and not one of them had held his interest for longer than a few days.
He closed his eyes, the plans he had for the town filling his brain. A bigger schoolhouse, repairs to the church, maybe even luring a real dentist to town â€¦
At that moment, the oak door burst open, the glass rattling. Startled, Brettâ€™s eyes widened and he straightened in his chair.
A boy appeared in the entrance, silhouetted in a shaft of sunlight streaming through the open door. Dust motes hung in the air.
A well-worn hat sat low on his head, keeping his face in shadow. He didnâ€™t speak, and as Brett watched, he patted the pocket of his red flannel shirt. Then, apparently not finding what he was looking for, he dug his hand into the pocket of his dusty brown trousers.
Brett stood, his hand automatically reaching toward the desk drawer on his right. Slowly, he pulled the drawer open. He slid a quick glance inside and wrapped his fingers around the engraved mother-of-pearl handle of his six-shooter. Heâ€™d had two clients in his three years of practicing law that hadnâ€™t taken kindly to the courtâ€™s verdict in their cases, and he counted himself lucky to get away with nothing more than a black eye and a split lip. He hoped this wasnâ€™t client number three. â€œCan I help you?â€
The boy didnâ€™t answer for several seconds, raising Brettâ€™s suspicions. Finally, a voice split the silence. â€œAre you Brett Morgan?â€
The voice shocked Brett. Heâ€™d assumed from the clothes that his visitor was male. But instead of a deep baritone or bass, the voice was soft and breathy, with a hint of huskiness. Definitely not a manâ€™s voice.
â€œI am,â€ he replied.
Now that he knew his visitor was a woman, he wondered how he could have mistaken the willowy figure for that of a man â€œWhat can I do for you?â€
â€œI need a lawyer.â€
The woman closed the door behind her and crossed to the desk. She stood tall, her chin held high, her gaze steady.
She looked up at Brett, and for a moment, he forgot where he was, who he was, everything.
She was little more than a girl, he mused, a girl with sun-tinged skin and lips. A few freckles dotted a small upturned nose. But it was her eyes that drew him in. Heâ€™d never seen such eyes, the grayish-blue color of the river on a summerâ€™s day. They were ringed by long dark eyelashes. An immediate, undeniable attraction to this girl-woman slammed into him.
Hell, what was wrong with him? He was lusting after a girl barely old enough to notice men. She had to be at least ten years younger than he was.
She didnâ€™t speak for a few moments, and he couldnâ€™t help wondering if sheâ€™d also felt the connection between them. Finally, she slid a dirty and crumpled piece of paper across the desk toward him.
Carefully, he unfolded the paper.
â€œThis says the Two Harts Mine belongs to my pa,â€ she said.
Brett skimmed the words. By all appearances, it was a legal document. He glanced up at her. His brows lifted. He wasnâ€™t sure what she expected him to do with this information.
â€œMe and my pa have worked that mine for the past twelve years,â€ she went on. â€œWell, itâ€™s not really a mine. Not yet. But itâ€™s our claim. And thereâ€™s a cave weâ€™ve been digginâ€™ in. And gettinâ€™ gold, too.â€
Brettâ€™s brows lifted. Twelve years? Hell, she didnâ€™t even look a day over sixteen.
He couldnâ€™t help himself. â€œHow old are you?â€
Tiny furrows appeared between her eyes. â€œTwenty-three,â€ she answered, her voice holding contempt at being asked such a personal question. â€œWhy? How old are you?â€
Her response took him aback. At least he wasnâ€™t a cradle robber. Or worse. And sheâ€™d turned the tables on him. â€œUh â€¦ twenty-seven.â€
â€œSo now that we have that out of the way, will you help me or not? I was just at the sheriffâ€™s office and he wonâ€™t do nothinâ€™. He said to come see you.â€
â€œOh â€¦ of course â€¦ Iâ€™ll try, but Iâ€™m not sure exactly what you want me to do.â€
She reached out and shoved the paper farther toward him. Her hand was rough, her fingers short and callused. Yet her wrist was small, delicate. An angry-looking wound bisected one of her knuckles. â€œSee this?â€ she asked, pointing a finger at a signature on the bottom. â€œThatâ€™s my paâ€™s name.â€
He nodded. â€œYou still havenâ€™t told me yours,â€ he pointed out.
A faint pinkish tinge colored her cheeks. â€œOh â€¦ Lucy. Lucy Hart. You can call me Lucy.â€ She gave him a faint half-hearted smile.
That was enough. A curiously warm sensation pulled at his insides. â€œIâ€™m pleased to meet you, Lucy.â€
The flush deepened.
She sucked in a breath, and for the first time he noticed curves beneath the loose shirt she wore, curves heâ€™d missed at first. But for reasons of her own, she kept her femininity hidden.
â€œPa passed on six weeks back,â€ she said, her voice breaking. Her eyes glistened, and for a moment, she didnâ€™t speak.
â€œIâ€™m sorry,â€ he said. She was obviously still grieving, so he waited patiently until she could continue.
â€œPa and me worked that claim,â€ she said. â€œJust me and him and Abe. Nobody else. And yesterday, a man showed up sayinâ€™ Pa sold it to him the week before he passed.â€
Brett still wasnâ€™t sure what the woman wanted from him. â€œAnd?â€
â€œPa would never have done that, especially without tellinâ€™ me.â€
She planted her hands on her hips, and Brett couldnâ€™t prevent his gaze from following the movement, noticing for the first time how tiny her waist was. He was sure he could span it with his hands and still have room left over.
Tearing his gaze away from her curves, he looked directly at her face. â€œDoes he have proof?â€
Her eyes blazed, and she let out a snort. Instead of it irritating him, the sound sent a shiver of warmth through him. â€œSays he does. He has a paper that says Pa sold it. And he says his partnerâ€”â€
â€œWait! There were two men?â€
She shook her head. â€œOnly one came to see me. He says his partner is in town but can vouch for it. Said his partner saw Pa sign the paper.â€
Brett sighed. It seemed straightforward to him. â€œA witness to a saleâ€”â€
â€œI just know Pa didnâ€™t sell the claim,â€ she insisted, her voice rising, and tears filling her eyes again. â€œSo I went to the sheriff, told him the man is a lowdown thief, but he wonâ€™t do nothinâ€™ about it. Said itâ€™s a civil matter. The manâ€™s a crook, so I donâ€™t know why the sheriff wonâ€™t go find him and arrest himâ€”â€
â€œIf he has a signed documentâ€”â€
She stabbed at the signature on the deed for the claim. â€œThatâ€™s Paâ€™s mark. The mark on that sidewinderâ€™s paper looks a bit like it, but itâ€™s not his. I can tell.â€
â€œThen youâ€™ll have to prove it.â€
She stared at him as if she thought he was addle-brained. â€œWhy do you think Iâ€™m here? I need you to help me do that.â€