The Prettiest Girl in Laramie


by Patricia Henry



Prologue

Jess Harper wasn’t a man who scared easily. And though he hated to admit it, right now he was terrified. Fear tingled up and down his spine while his palms dampened with sweat. He had hoped this day would never come. Yet here he was, face to face with one of his greatest fears.

The morning had started out fine. A sunny day. Cool spring weather. He had planned to pick up supplies in town. And had started early that morning for Laramie. The ride in had been peaceful. Down right enjoyable as the buckboard bumped along the dusty road. But as soon as he walked through the door of the general store, he knew he was in trouble. And this was the kind of trouble that he knew he couldn’t win. It was a showdown that he had never planned to face. But there he was and there was no escaping.

“Well Jess? What have you got to say for yourself?”

His mind raced to find words to speak.

“Jess?”

If only he could think. But he couldn’t because he was having a confrontation with the kind of woman that always scared him. A decent woman.

Jess Harper had two fears in life: being left a foot and a decent woman. Next to Daisy Cooper, the woman he was now encountering was the most decent woman Jess knew.

“Jess, aren’t you going to answer my question?”

Jess swayed on the balls of his feet, biting his lip. He plainly saw the look of impatience form on the woman’s face. But that wasn’t what made him tongue-tied. It was the expression of hope that caused him to be silent.

“Jess-” With each moment her impatience was showing more and more.

“Em, we’ve spent a lot of time together,” Jess stammered. “And I do like you but-”

“But!” she cut in sharply. “But Claire is here now.”

Jess hesitated then gave a quick nod.

“Well I know a woman shouldn’t speak her mind in these matters but I felt I just had to.” She turned beet red. “I’m sorry I bothered you, Jess.”

“Oh no bother-I mean...” He knew he was rambling.

She turned sharply on her heels and walked away. His glaze followed her throughout the store. Em was pretty. One of the prettiest girls in Laramie. Yet in comparison to Claire, Em Stevens was plain.


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Chapter One