The Texas Ranger's Heiress Wife Online - Kate Welsh

Prologue

Cautiously, Brendan Kane approached the church, keeping his sister, Abby, behind him. It was soon apparent no one hid in the dark shadows around the building. Once this meeting was over, he’d be on the night train, headed west toward his dream and away from a hangman’s noose. Had he known Helena’s damned guardian was trying and succeeding in framing him for murder, he’d have left long ago. Then he’d have been away from the torture of watching Helena from afar, knowing she was to marry Joshua Wheaton.

Brendan and Abby crept to the church doors and slipped inside. Odd, he thought. More candles glowed than the little church used for benediction.

In the candlelight, he saw her. His Helena. He loved her so much he’d rejected her, for her own good and his own peace of mind. Brendan hissed a word that shouldn’t be spoken in a church. Helena Conwell was an American princess. In the eyes of her world he was nothing but Irish-born scum, a dirt-poor coal miner and now an outlaw to boot.

Dear God. How many nights had he closed his eyes and pictured her in this church exactly as she was—wearing a beautiful white gown? Now, though, she was really there, standing near the altar talking to Father Rafferty. She turned and put her hand on the old priest’s arm, then walked up the aisle toward him and Abby.

“What are you doing here?” Brendan growled.

Hurt entered those bluer-than-blue eyes he so loved. “I’m sorry you aren’t glad to see me. I suppose that makes this all the more necessary,” she said, as she pulled a pistol from the folds of her elegant dress and leveled it at him.

“Is this all an elaborate trick to snare Brendan in your guardian’s trap?” Abby demanded. “I trusted both you and Joshua with my brother’s life.”

Helena smiled up at Brendan, not sparing Abby a glance. “Oh, no. It’s my snare to catch myself a husband. Father Rafferty agreed to marry us, darling, and time is wasting. I’m sorry it has to be this way. I know it’s because of me they’ve gone after you, and I’m sorry. Franklin Gowery was never meant to know about us, but he does and so here we are.”

“Your guardian is a bit of a poor loser, isn’t he?” Brendan grinned. It was a grin he used often to infuriate adversaries and throw them off their stride. It worked a bit too well this time, for Helena looked as if she wanted to slap it off his face. “Ya won’t shoot me, lovey,” he told her, living dangerously as always when backed against a wall. Tonight seemed to be ripe for that.

Helena didn’t rise to his bait, though. “No, I probably wouldn’t.” She swung the gun left. Toward Abby. “But I might—just might—shoot your sister,” she said in the most scarily calm tone he’d ever heard.

He drew in a sharp breath. Had it all been too much for her? Had his rejection, compounded by her guardian’s insistence she marry Joshua, Brendan’s childhood friend, caused her mind to surrender to the strain? “Have ya lost your mind?” Brendan asked. He’d meant to sound demanding, hoping to snap her out of her reckless behavior, but even he heard concern leak into his tone. Question was, had Helena heard it?

He glanced at Ab. She stared at him, her eyes sparkling with delight and not worry as Helena held the gun steadily on her. She’d clearly seen his worry and his love for Helena. “I do believe she means it, Bren,” Abby said.

“Father Rafferty won’t marry us this way,” Brendan stated, trying to interject some sense into the conversation.

“Actually, after I explained how you’d trifled with me, then rejected me, he was happy to agree. It’s his gun.”

Abby coughed, but only to cover a laugh. Then her eyes flashed with temper when she realized Helena spoke the truth. “After what happened to me, you did the same thing to Miss Conwell?”

“This was different. I only broke it off because she’s an heiress.”

Abby glared.

“I lost my head?” Brendan added.

“I’d say Miss Conwell lost something a bit less metaphoric. Her virginity,” his sister declared. “We’d best get on with this ceremony. You’ll be losing one form of freedom this night, brother mine, or so help me I’ll geld you myself. And I’ll be holding that pistol. Now that you’ll be my sister, I’ll be looking after your interests, Miss Conwell. A bride shouldn’t have to hold a gun on her groom. And don’t