The Cowboy's Outlaw Bride

By: Cora Seton

Chapter One





It would be a miracle if this wedding didn’t end with a fistfight.

Noah Turner watched Carl Whitfield waltz with his new bride, Camila, alone on the temporary dance floor built in the front yard of the Whitfields’ new ranch. Surrounded by friends and family, it was clear they saw no one but each other. They deserved their happiness as far as Noah was concerned, but judging by the sour expression on his uncle Jed’s face—and the looks and attitudes of the rest of the Turners and Coopers present—not everyone wished Carl and Camila well.

Carl had made the mistake of living for three years on Cooper land, renting a cabin from them at Thorn Hill, their extensive ranch. Camila had rented a cabin on Turner land at the Flying W for just as long. As far as Noah’s uncle was concerned, Carl could be a Cooper himself, which made his marriage to Camila, an honorary Turner in Jed’s mind, insupportable.

It would be funny if everyone wasn’t taking it so damn seriously. Noah was keeping an especially close eye on his brother, Liam, who was glaring across the dance floor at Lance Cooper. Those two were apt to throw down whenever they met up. Noah wished they’d get over whatever had caused all that animosity between them, but the feud had stood between the Turners and Coopers for over a hundred years, and it obviously wasn’t going to end tonight.

Which made it impossible for him to ask Olivia Cooper to dance.

He wanted to, though. Badly enough it took all his strength to stay where he was.

Olivia looked beautiful tonight in a short, light-blue off-the-shoulder dress. Her long legs were encased in cowboy boots. Her blonde hair done up in a twist. She looked sassy and sexy, and Noah couldn’t keep his eyes off her.

No surprise: he could never look away when Olivia was around.

Everything had conspired to make this night a wonderful celebration for the newlyweds. The air was soft and warm. The evening sky glowed with an early June sunset. Stars were beginning to light up overhead one by one. The murmur of the other guests and the sweet melody of the string quartet provided a backdrop for the swaying couple. Noah wished he could relax and enjoy the occasion, but happy endings belonged to people like Carl and Camila, not people like him. Carl was a millionaire, and every inch of his new ranch oozed prosperity.

The Flying W didn’t look half as good these days. Noah’s family had fallen on hard times, and no matter how hard he worked, he couldn’t seem to get them out from under their bills. He envied Carl the partner he’d gained in this wedding, too. Camila wasn’t wealthy, but she had a good head on her shoulders, worked hard and obviously loved her new husband. What would it be like to have someone to share your life with? Someone on your side the way Camila seemed committed to Carl?

His own parents’ marriage hadn’t worked out, and that’s when the fortunes of his family had turned. His mother had decamped to Ohio. His father died a few years back. Now Noah, the oldest of his siblings, was left in charge.

He was making a mess of the job. How could he expect any woman to want to be with him if he couldn’t get it together?

His gaze slid to Olivia again. She was talking with her great-aunt Virginia on the other side of the dance floor, a stern old woman with upright bearing who carried an old black umbrella wherever she went. It was in her hand now. It was closed, and she was using it like a cane, leaning on it for support. She looked frustrated—or maybe thwarted was a better word. She didn’t approve of this wedding any more than Noah’s uncle Jed did.

Olivia was far more animated, talking rapidly, gesturing at the dancing couple. Trying to convince her aunt of something. Noah sighed, shoving his hands in the pockets of his good jeans. Much as he was attracted to Olivia, if he married someday, it couldn’t be to her.

The Coopers had been his family’s enemies since 1882, when Ernestine Harris jilted Olivia’s great, great, great, great-grandfather, Slade Cooper, and married Noah’s great, great, great, great-grandfather, Zeke Turner, instead. The feud between their families had been renewed when Virginia and Jed had a falling out in their early twenties. Then there was the trouble thirteen years ago…

Noah didn’t like to think about that. He still wasn’t sure exactly what had happened, except Olivia’s father, Dale, had landed in jail, and her mother, Enid, had taken her and her siblings to Idaho for nearly a decade, leaving them with her sister when she ran off with a man and settled in New Mexico.

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