The Widow’s Rancher – 02

THE occupants of Wishbone Creek practically snivelled at Diggory Rorke’s feet with their pathetic attempts to impress him. All the mothers dreamed and prayed to have him for a son-in-law, and their husbands vied to have him for a friend.

Everyone wanted a piece of him. Everyone except for her. She couldn’t stand the man. The few unfortunate times she’d had to speak to him she’d found him rude, loud and as hard a man as his reputation declared him to be.

He might be the most admired man around, but he was also the most ruthless.

With a tug, she broke his hold on her arm, and forced herself to face him. As much as she wanted to walk away, she did owe him a thank you. About the only thing her mama had taught her before she upped and moved on to heaven was that a woman may not have much in life, but she always had good manners.

Clutching the handle of her basket tighter, she said, “I have no interest in your excuses for your men, Mr Rorke. Nor why they seem to believe they have the right to harass a woman out doing her shopping. Besides, they’re not the first. It appears to be a curse of many in this town.”

“Are you saying you’re being bothered?”

His usual stern tone sounded sharper than normal. The only thing she begrudgingly liked about the man was his wonderful voice, deep and confident.

Nadia glanced away and fixed her eyes on the row of mountains in the distance. Wishbone Creek was a small town built close to those majestic mounts and along a small creek that sometimes dried up in the summer and always froze in the winter. But the surrounding land was perfect for both cattle and crops. She drew her gaze away from the scenery.

“To some men the handle ‘widow’ equates to a woman willing to indulge any man in any form he asks. They think because there’s no husband to keep them away from the door they have a right to cross the threshold,” she retorted.

“If someone’s becoming a nuisance . . .”

She chuckled dryly, and interrupted.

“If they are, what business is it of yours?”

He pulled his right shoulder back slightly and drew himself up. He placed a hand against one hip, inches above his gun.

“They have no right . . .”

“No, they don’t. Nevertheless, like many things out here in the west, what is right doesn’t seem to matter. A man will simply do as he wishes.”

“If you’re being bothered, tell me and then…”

“And what will you do?” Nadia asked, her tone purposely mocking. “Talk to them?”

“If it’s what’s needed,” he said.

Nadia took in his craggy, weather-beaten face and determined stance. Not a particularly handsome man, but there was strength and determination to his features that drew a woman to glance more than once.

She stopped eyeing him and returned her attention to their conversation.

“Do you intend telling all the men to leave me be?”

He didn’t hesitate in answering.

“Yes, anyone.”

“Then you’d better gather up most of the cowboys around here, and a fair few men who live in town, too.”


She shook her head slightly at his obvious surprise. Was he really oblivious to the nature of his gender? She didn’t think so. Diggory Rorke was the same as any other man. She’d bet he’d propositioned a fair few widows himself over the years.

“Let’s see,” Nadia said, raising her hands. “If you’re going to play at being my saviour then you need to speak to the banker, the mercantile owner and the undertaker.”

“All of them?”

She nodded, secretly enjoying his shock as she counted off the men with her fingers.

“Then there’s the men on Wrights’ Ranch and those brothers out past your place. Then there’s the newcomer who took over the saloon. Oh, and don’t forget practically every cowboy on your ranch.”

“I don’t believe it.” Diggory sighed, his expression a mixture of anger and disbelief.

She frowned, hitched the basket higher on her arm, and demanded, “Why not?

Because I’m old?”

“No, I mean . . .” he began, then sighed once more. “Lady, you need a husband.”

Nadia shook her head and resolve stiffened her spine.

“Had one of them. Not planning on wasting my time on another.”

“There’s plenty of men who’d marry you,” he continued, ignoring her reply. “Of course, you’d have to ease on the anger. Not every man likes a woman full of temper.”

She snorted, and decided to ignore his remarks.

“You mean my homestead, don’t you? It is the real attraction men have for me. I’m not a fool. I realise they look at me and see land. Well, let me make it clear so you can tell your workers and your friends. There’s not one man in these parts who will ever get a sniff of it − or me. Neither one is for sale. Good day to you, Mr Rorke.”

Nadia walked away, forcing her feet to keep going, even though tremors started to shake her body. Now wasn’t the time to break down. She had to show this town that she wasn’t afraid of anyone, and that included Diggory Rorke. Otherwise, her life might become a bigger bale of misery than it already was.


Tracey Steel

Having worked on a number of magazines over the years, Tracey has found her perfect place on The Friend as she’s obsessed with reading and never goes anywhere without a book! She reads all the PF stories with a mug of tea close by and usually a bit of strong cheese too!