Much ado about miners, p.1

Much Ado About Miners, page 1

 part  #4 of  Hearts of Owyhee Series


Much Ado About Miners

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Much Ado About Miners

  Praise for

  Much Ado About Miners

  by Award-Winning Author

  Jacquie Rogers

  I definitely know that if you read this story, you’ll be waiting for the next installment of Ms. Rogers’ stories just like the rest of us. ~Lynda McCoy, Amazon reviewer

  Much Ado About Miners, rocks the cowboy world! Sexy gunman Kade, groom-shooting bank clerk Iris, and a warrior cat will keep you in stitches and warm your heart at the same time. I love this series! ~BookwormForever

  Table of Contents

  Much Ado About Miners



  Author’s Note

  ♥ Hearts of Owyhee ♥ series:

  Other Books by Jacquie Rogers


  About the Author

  Much Ado About Miners

  Hearts of Owyhee #4

  by Jacquie Rogers

  Copyright © 2013 Jacquie Rogers


  This is NOT a free book. If you received this book from any source besides a major online bookstore or the author, it is a pirated copy.

  Much Ado About Miners

  by Jacquie Rogers

  Iris Gets Her Man

  July, 1885—Silver City, Idaho Territory

  Iris Gardner rubbed her eyes, then put her spectacles back on and resumed summing the never-ending columns of numbers in the bank’s ledgers. A plunge in a cool stream would be heavenly on such a sweltering hot day, but here she was, stuck in the stuffy teller’s cage until five o’clock.

  Much as she enjoyed keeping the books for Hewett and Sons Bank, and she truly did, the patronizing Mr. Hewett was a perfect example of an egotistical male who didn’t think women were good for anything except cleaning and breeding. She’d show him. Suffragists can meet any challenge!

  In just three weeks, she’d never have to put up with a man again.

  The manager scooted his chair back from his desk and stood a moment, stretching his rheumatiz back, then donned his derby. “I have a meeting but I’ll be back before closing.” He tapped the counter in front of her with his cane as he passed.

  She smiled and nodded. His meeting was probably at the Silver Slipper and involved a bottle of Owyhee County’s finest spirits, a Havana cigar, and a deck of cards. Iris didn’t care. She’d balance the books far more quickly without him. She could also check his mining investments—following them had given her quite an education, which she’d used to her advantage.

  He paused in front of the teller’s cage. “Are you ready for the masquerade ball a week from Saturday?”

  “Yes, sir.”

  “Good. Maybe we can get you a husband.” The banker twirled his cane and left.

  Mr. Hewett meant his son, Edward. Iris had no intention of marrying the younger Mr. Hewett, or any other man. The only man she wanted didn’t want her, so the next best option was to make her own way. An independent woman didn’t require a husband for either prosperity or propriety. Nevertheless, she loved dancing and looked forward to the ball.

  The social scene in Silver City had been lacking the past few years, making the masquerade ball the talk of the town. Iris smiled just thinking about it. Fairies loved to dance as did she, and she’d spent months planning and sewing. She’d go as Titania, Queen of the Fairies from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The play had been a favorite of her and her friends when the Gardner family had lived in Virginia City, Nevada, so long ago, and Titania was, of course, her favorite of all characters.

  Now that her oldest and best friend, Vivvie McKinnon, had moved to the area, they’d rekindled both their friendship and their love of the theater. More important, Vivvie had invested in the Bonnet Consortium, a mining investment company, with Iris and three other ladies.

  Just as Iris had added halfway down the credits column, jangling spurs and clomping boots in the lobby distracted her.

  “Stay right there, little lady. Don’t move.”

  Iris’s mouth went dry and her insides turned to jelly. Four dusty, ragged bandits, dirty bandanas covering their faces up to their beady eyes, crouched ready for action with their six-guns pointed right at her. They were too far away for her to see them well with her spectacles on, but she had no doubt they meant business of the dangerous sort. She swallowed hard and tried to calm herself but staring down four pistol barrels convinced her she could die fighting or she could die standing there.

  “Damn, Scud, a lady banker. Never seen one of them before!”

  “A banker’s a banker.” He cocked the pistol and Iris knew they planned to kill her—either with a bullet or their rank odor.

  The outlaw closest to her added, “And the only good banker is a dead banker.”

  They left her no choice. If she ever wanted to be an independent woman of means, if she ever wanted to wear that fairy costume, she had to fend for herself.

  “Open the safe.”

  Mr. Hewett had never given her the combination, but she nodded to buy some time and concentrate on keeping her heart from slamming into her throat. If she had to die, at least one of them would have to give his life for it. Slowly, cautiously, she moved her hand under the counter, taking care that her shoulder didn’t give away the movement. Feeling for the Peacemaker next to the till, she waited for her opportunity.

  “Don’t just stand there, woman. Open the safe!”

  “Yes, sir,” she whispered, her voice quivering, then raised the pistol, fired twice in their general direction. The pistol’s recoil forced her arms up and her right arm sent her spectacles flying but she couldn’t worry about that, because the lobby chandelier shattered.

  “Get down!” the leader ordered amidst the yelping. A couple of them ended up with cuts from the flying glass shards. Her shots hadn’t exactly gone where she wanted them, but that last one had been effective.

  She ducked behind the solid oak counter with the hope it would shield her from return fire. A couple of deep breaths calmed her shaky nerves. The bandits hadn’t left yet, but they would. No one who messed with Iris Gardner would leave without a lesson in politeness. She pointed her pistol through the cage and, not even looking, she fired twice more.

  One man cried out and she heard a thunk. A lucky shot.

  “Bone’s hurt!” one of them yelled.

  Another hollered, “Let’s get out of here before the law comes.”

  Iris stood as three men retreated, dragging the fourth man, and she fired off another round just to make good and sure they didn’t change their minds. A fifth man went down. Only this man was also shooting at the bandits.

  Her heart thumped and she didn’t know whether to hide, run for help, or throw up.

  The bandits hightailed it down Jordan Street, leaving a trail of dust. Iris hurried to the fifth man who lay still, blood pooling at the side of his head and soaking into the boardwalk. “Oh, please don’t let him be dead,” she whispered as she knelt beside him.

  The man was quite nicely formed. She couldn’t see his face because his hat covered it, and with her spectacles somewhere on the floor of the teller’s cage, focusing was out of the question. Unfortunately, she was extremely far-sighted and although she could see objects across the room or farther way, anything closer was a blur.

  And anyway, she wasn’t sure she wanted to see the face of the man she’d shot. Her throat tightened and she was sick with remorse.

  By then, several people had crowded around her, and Sheriff Sidney Adler pushed his way through. He squatted by the stranger.

  “Does he have a pulse?”

  “I... I didn’t touch him.”

  Sheriff Adler pressed his forefinger to the side of the prone man’s neck. “Strong heartbeat. Anyone call Doc Mabry yet
?” He nodded at the grocer. “Have him meet us at my office. I’ll need four men to carry this big fellow to the jail.” The sheriff examined the head wound. “Looks like just a scratch. Hope so—head wounds can be nasty.” He leaned back on his haunches. “Miss Gardner, did you shoot this man?”

  “Yes, sir.”

  “Attempted bank robbery?”

  “Yes, but—”

  He cut her off before she could tell him this man wasn’t one of the robbers. “Did they take any money or valuables?”

  “No, but—”

  “How many others were there?”

  “Four, but—”

  “Which way did they ride out?”

  “South, but—”

  He flipped a coin to a boy. “Go get my deputy.” Then he turned to Iris. “Are you unhurt, Miss Gardner?”

  “Yes, but—”

  “Come to my office so I can make a report and press charges.” He stood and motioned for the men still there to pick up the fallen man.

  “But, Sheriff—”

  * * *

  Kade McKinnon woke to ringing in his ears and a twenty-mule team dancing the polka on his skull. He had no doubt that if he opened his eyes, hot pokers would slash through his brain. Best to concentrate on steady breathing until he could figure out where the blazes he was and what sort of trouble he was in. This time.

  Only he wasn’t alone. The sweet smell of a lady filled the musty room, and her footfalls and swishing skirts indicated pacing back and forth. A troubled lady. He wanted to take a look-see but the bass drum pounding in his head assuaged his curiosity.

  “How is he, Doc?” The voice came from a worried woman.

  “He’ll wake up with a headache, but he’s none the worse for the wear as far as I can see.”

  “Good. I didn’t mean to shoot him.”

  “You marrying this one?”

  “Doc!” The woman sounded truly upset. Hell, he wasn’t that bad looking. Of course, he wasn’t the marrying type, either.

  “I’ll be on my way—have another call to make. Let me know if he vomits or has a seizure.” Footfalls sounded and then Kade heard the door open and shut.

  “Sheriff, at least tell me what I’m charged with.”

  Sheriff? Damn, he must be in jail. The woman’s voice was not angry, as Kade would’ve expected, but more resigned, and he didn’t doubt she truly was sorry for shooting him.

  “Nothing yet, Miss Gardner. I’ll take your statement when all the ruckus dies down, but for now, I don’t want you talking about the case.”

  Miss Gardner? That name was familiar—not recently familiar—something Kade had known for years. But Gardner was a common name and he dismissed the thought, mostly because it hurt too much to think.

  “Then why am I here?”

  “I want you here. Once I get the facts straight, I’ll talk to Judge Glover and we’ll make a decision.”

  “But Sidney, I can tell you what happened.”

  Miss Gardner’s on a first-name basis with the sheriff?

  “Once this fellow wakes up, we’ll do that. Meantime, I’ve sent a message to your mother—good thing she’s in town—to bring a change of clothes. Wilfred’s heating up some water now.”

  “Do you know his name?” Miss Gardner asked. “He’s familiar but I’m sure he doesn’t have an account at the bank.”

  “We’ll find out when he regains consciousness. Probably just a drifter.”

  “Silver City is an out-of-the-way place to drift.”

  Kade thought it best to remain still. He needed time to think, and things weren’t working too good upstairs. Where the hell was Phineas? Virgin Alley, more than likely. His partner was getting up in the years, but any time they rode into a town, the old prospector wasted no time finding the company of a soiled dove.

  Another woman entered the sheriff’s office. He knew it was a woman because of the whish of her skirts.

  “Iris Gardner, what have you done?” A stern, matronly voice.

  Iris Gardner. He’d known a girl with that name—his little sister’s best friend when they lived in Virginia City. The Gardner family had moved away years ago, before he’d left home.

  “My job, Mama.”

  “Your job does not include shooting men. The last one you shot married your sister.” Kade heard her walk closer. “And this one’s even better looking.”

  The last one?

  “You’ll never let me live that down, will you?”

  “Probably not.” Keys jangled and metal clanged. They’d opened the lady’s cell door. “I brought clean clothes, but you’ll need to wash up first. Sidney, do you have a tub? And where can she change?”

  “Wilfred, get the privacy screen.” Footsteps, a door opened and shut. “Sorry, Hazel. She’ll have to change there in the cell, but we’ll preserve your daughter’s modesty.”

  “Hmph. I come to Silver for the masquerade ball, and end up tending my trigger-happy daughter in jail. With a strange man.”

  Kade wanted to say something but he couldn’t make his mouth move yet. The lady could learn a thing or two about target identification.

  “Mama, they were trying to rob the bank!”

  “Well, let them. They could’ve shot you full of holes and I’d be coming for your funeral. Do you know how many gray hairs you’ve given me this morning? And where are your spectacles, young lady?”

  “I lost them during the robbery.”

  Keys jangled, a metal clang and a squeak—had to be the jail cell door opening. “Brung the privacy screen.”

  “Put it right here,” Mrs. Gardner said. “Your man is unconscious so he won’t be able to see you, and we’ll shield you from the other two men.”

  “Not much room back here,” Iris grumbled. “Mama, you’ll have to leave so I have room to change. I can unlace everything myself.”

  How could the Big Gun in the Sky do this to him? A woman was going to get naked right next to him and he could barely move a muscle. Talk about hell on earth. Clothing rustled and he heard her moving around, probably bumping against the privacy screen. He had to look. He just had to look.

  Slowly, he tilted his head slightly to the right and willed his eyes to open. What a sight to behold. She was bent over with the top of her head not two feet from him, and he had the sweetest view of her ample cleavage near to bursting out of that corset. He groaned, whether from the hot dagger that seemed stuck through his eyeballs, or the glorious sight to behold, he didn’t know.

  She glanced up, wide-eyed, then straightened and clutched her dress against her breasts. “Mama! He’s awake, and I’m... I’m unpresentable!”

  “Oh my stars!” Mrs. Gardner spluttered. “Sidney, we simply must get her to the boardinghouse to change.”

  Kade closed his eyes again, willing his head to stop pounding so much. At least it was a beautiful woman who shot him in the head—many men had tried and failed. He wished he could’ve touched the blond curl at the nape of her neck that had escaped from the tightly coiled bun. Her bosom, ah, he’d remember forever, so rounded and soft. That one glance etched itself firmly in his mind.

  More skirts rustling. More clanging, and people moving around all over the place, in and out of the cell.

  “All right,” Mrs. Gardner said. “You’re done up now, but you look a bit pale.”

  “Mama, what a mess I’m in.”

  “No talking about the case, Miss Gardner,” admonished the sheriff.

  “Are you marrying this one?” the sheriff asked. He chuckled, but Kade didn’t think it was so funny. Seemed like a pretty strange question.

  “Sidney!” Miss Gardner yelped, hurting Kade’s head. “Is Vivvie at the boardinghouse? She’ll want to know, especially if I have to stay here.”

  Vivvie? That was his sister’s name. How many Vivvies could there be in Owyhee County? Kade hadn’t seen her for four years. He managed to open his eyes, but stars danced in the daylight. He blinked softly, but even that caused the throbbing in his head to worsen so he shut t
hem. The cot was as bad as sleeping on a box of rocks. Time to take inventory. He flexed his biceps one at a time, then his leg muscles. No pain there, probably no broken bones.

  She must have shot him in the head but it couldn’t be too bad or he’d be dead, and there sure weren’t any angels in the vicinity. Or demons, as would most likely be the case. But if his sister was in town, he wanted to see her.

  “Look, Mama! He’s moving.”

  “Do you know who he is?” Mrs. Gardner asked.

  “I’m afraid not. I didn’t have my spectacles on so he was all blurry, but I knew by his posture and movement that he’s not a bank customer.”

  Kade licked his parched lips. “I’m awake,” he croaked as he touched his bandaged head. “Someone want to tell me about this?”

  A man’s bootsteps neared. “Mister, the doc says for you not to move too much and don’t talk, either, until you’re good and ready. We have plenty of time.”

  Kade opened his eyes, but focusing was too much work and he closed them again.

  “No, we don’t,” said Miss Gardner. “I still have to balance the day’s ledgers.”

  The man had called her Iris Gardner. Kade thought about that. And Vivvie, his sister. “Iris Gardner. Cute little girl.”

  “He’s talking! You know me?”

  “Ornery as a magpie.”

  A man chuckled. “He knows her.” The sheriff speaking.

  “That’s our Iris,” her mother said, “especially when Vivvie’s around.”

  Kade really wanted to know if this Vivvie was his sister. Gunmen weren’t supposed to miss their families, but then none of them had his family. They had always been close.

  “Who are you?” Miss Gardner asked him.

  Kade tried to focus again, but his eyes still weren’t working, and the thought of moving his head again made his stomach churn. Patience wasn’t his long suit, but he had no choice but to lay there like a rag doll. Some man he was—gunned down by a woman.

  The door opened again. This must be the meeting place for the whole danged town.

  “Did the robbers get any money?” The voice came from an older man.

  “Good afternoon, Mr. Hewett.”

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