Everyone should have career at which they excel. At failing to commit crimes, nobody is better than Laredo and Tombstone Hawkins. Maybe they can bumble their way into love.
The Worst Outlaw in the West
Laredo Hawkins has one ambition: to redeem his family’s honor by pulling the first successful bank robbery in the Hawkins clan’s long, disappointing history. Spinster Prudence Barrett is desperate to save her family’s bank from her brother’s reckless investments. A chance encounter between the dime-novel bandit and the old maid may set the pair on a path to infamy…if either can find a map.
Haunted by his kin’s tradition of spectacular failure, bank robber Tombstone Hawkins is honor-bound to prove his family tree produced at least one bad apple. When carnival fortuneteller Pansy Gilchrist tries to help, she accidentally summons a pair of dishonest-to-goodness ghosts. Getting into the spirit of a crime is one thing…but how do you get the spirits out?
Excerpt from The Worst Outlaw in the West
Prudence Barrett slammed the ledger before she acted on an urge to rip every page from the spine, wad up the pieces, and light a bonfire right there on Peter’s desk.
A second set of books. She should have known her brother would lie. Again.
Leather creaked as Pru leaned back in the chair, hands clasped at her lips, gaze glued to Peter’s betrayal. With the state auditor due in less than a month, how would they explain the missing funds?
Fifty years of trust in the Barrett Bank, everything her father had built, gone in an instant if word got out. Walter Maxwell Barrett, the man who once held Granite City’s future in his hands, deserved better.
Peter, on the other hand, deserved to go to jail. Now there was a scandal the gossips would relish, bigger even than last week’s hasty departure of the town marshal and both of his deputies.
Her brother had to be stopped.
As though she had summoned him, the office door opened and Peter’s too-smooth baritone barged into the room. “I am always at your service, Mrs. Whitworth. Have a good evening.” He ducked inside, cheeks puffing around a gust of relief. “Lord, save me from simpering women. If her husband weren’t—”
His gaze fell on Pru, and his eyes narrowed. “What are you doing behind my desk?”
She slammed a hand on the cluttered desktop and pushed to her feet, brandishing the shadow ledger. “What are you doing?”
Peter crossed the lush carpet in three long strides and made a grab for the book. Clutching the evidence to her bosom, Pru ducked out of reach.
Her brother cocked a blond brow. “Snooping are we? Is nothing beneath you?”
“I could ask the same of you. Peter, you promised—”
“That I’d fix the problem. And I will.”
“By making more bad investments?”
He stalked her across the room until her bustle met the wall. “I’ll not tolerate sass, Prudence. It’s unbecoming.” Lips pinched in a thin line, he tore the ledger from her grasp. “Mind your own business and leave mine to me.”
“This is my business.” She stomped after him to the ornate roll-top desk. No wonder Peter had replaced Father’s simple table with the gaudy beast. Her brother could hide all manner of skeletons in the monster’s compartments and cubbyholes. “If you’re planning another risky scheme, I swear I’ll—”
“Do what? Tell someone?” His chuckle pulled a chill up her spine. “Now let’s think about that. Half of Granite City has never noticed you exist, and the other half doesn’t care. Lest we forget…” He swept her with a look of undisguised disdain. “There’s a reason you’re unmarried at your age. When a banker’s daughter can’t make a suitable match—” he cocked his head “—even to save her family from ruin…”
Pru snapped her arms akimbo beneath her bosom and sharpened her glare. “You snake. I shouldn’t have to save this family. I didn’t make the mess.”
“Oh? Tell that to the people who’ll storm the bank if you go blabbing.” His lips curled in a humorless smirk. “And who do you think they’ll blame? Me?” He waggled the ledger. “Or the unbalanced spinster who keeps the books?”
Excerpt from Family Tradition
Swiping the air to dissipate the dust, Tombstone Hawkins focused a glare on the backs of three riders hightailing it south. Now if that didn’t beat all. Robbed at gunpoint for six dollars and eight-five cents.
Helluva thing when a man couldn’t trust his own gang.
“Enjoy the wealth, you sorry sons of—” Yelling wouldn’t do any good, but it made him feel better.
Stone hiked his saddle onto a shoulder. Even Jack had galloped off with the ungrateful cusses. Damn fickle cayuse. Good riddance.
Now what? He couldn’t very well rob a bank all by his lonesome. His brother had tried, and look what happened to him: Married up with some banker lady and wearing a tin star.
Disgusted disbelief shook loose a grunt. “Never thought I’d see a Hawkins sink that low.” True, his relatives didn’t have the most impressive reputation along the Outlaw Trail—in fact, they’d been asked to take another road more than once—but a lawman in the family was downright humiliating.
If Pop hadn’t gone over the jump a few years back, the news would’ve sent him heading for the Pearly Gates on a fast horse.
The wind kicked up, shoving mean-looking clouds across the sky. The wheezing bray of a calliope wove through the gusts. Shameful waste of a traveling show. The off-key racket would have made the perfect cover for dynamiting a safe. Even if the robbery had conformed to the Hawkins tradition of spectacular failure, he might at least have outlawed his way into a jail cell.
What good was a name like Tombstone if the moniker never showed up on a wanted poster?