Kristin Landon put her foot in the stirrup and swung onto the back of her horse. He neighed as he swung in a tight circle in the outdoor pen. Kris steadied him with the touch of a hand. The horse snorted and jumped back anxiously.
"Come on, Tahoe, easy boy." He half reared and Kris shook her head. "Okay, okay. We'll go. You wanna run, we'll run." She turned Tahoe towards the sprawling field and gently touched her legs to his side. She laughed when he bolted forward at a fast canter. He soon pushed into a gallop and Kris began to worry. She pulled back on the reins, but Tahoe just tossed his head and surged forward. "Tahoe! Whoa!" She said. He didn't listen. Tahoe usually did whatever was asked of him. Something was wrong.
Knowing that he could injure himself if he continued, Kris grabbed one of the reins up near Tahoe's mouth and pulled his head around. The horse slowed and then turned abruptly. The simple emergency stop turned into a horrific experience as Tahoe lost his footing on the leaves on the ground and started to go down. He and Kris landed hard on the ground. The last thing Kris remembered was the shrill whinny of alarm and a sickening thud before everything went black.
"Hey! Hey, wake up! Come on now, wake up." The voice came through in a haze. Kris couldn't see anyone, but the voice got stronger with each word. "Come on ma'am, wake up." Her eyes slowly opened and focused on a face in front of her. A very handsome face. "There you are. You knocked your head something good, ma'am."
Kris raised a hand to her head and winced. The man caught her hand and lowered it back down to her side. "What…who are you? Where am I?"
The man glanced up and then looked down at her again. "Well, ma'am, you're in Texas, Pontico, to be exact. My name is Marshal Carsyn Hayes. Who are you?"
"I'm…my name is Kristin Landon."
The Marshal smiled. "Well, you just sit tight there Mrs. Landon, the doctor is on his way. He'll patch you up."
"No Mrs…just Kris. I'm not married." She tried to sit up, but the Marshal pushed her back down. "I need to sit up, please."
He shook his head. "No ma'am, it wouldn't be good for that bump on your head."
Kris groaned and closed her eyes. She could hear the Marshal move slightly and suddenly, she bolted upright. "Oh my God! TEXAS! How in hell did I get in Texas? And where is my horse?"
Marshal Hayes sat back on his heels, his eyes wide with shock and amusement. "Now, you must be the first lady I ever heard swear like that."
"You have got to be kidding me! This is a dream, right? You're some old-fashioned cowboy from the 1890's and run this town. Quit the act!"
He looked utterly confused. "Ma'am, did you escape from the hospital a bit north?"
Kris sighed, "No, I am not insane. I can't be in Texas. I was in Montana, on my ranch, with Tahoe when he freaked. I tried to stop him and he and I both went down on the trail. Now, sir, I would like to find my horse."
The Marshal stood and helped Kris to her feet. "Well ma'am, we tried to bring him in, but he kicked on of the stable boys in the chest and bit the other. I reckon that the fall shook him up some." He helped her walk out into the sun. Kris froze at the sight before her.
There were people driving buggies down the street and children laughing while throwing rocks in a little creek. Horses were everywhere she looked, tied outside of buildings, being ridden in and out of town and dotting the tiny pastures here and there. She heard a familiar whinny and turned to see Tahoe standing to the right of her in a large field. She smiled and started hobbling toward him. She whistled and he came trotting up to her.
While stroking his neck, she heard the Marshal come up behind her. "He sure is a fine horse. I've yet to see one with this color though."
"He's a grulla. This is Tahoe's Mighty Doc. I just call him Tahoe."
"He looks fine. Why don't I untack him so we can get you to the house. Doc should be here any minute."
Kris grabbed Tahoe's reins and started to walk away. Just as she knew he would, the Marshal hurried after her. "Look, Mr. Hayes, I realize that you're concerned and all, but I really want to get home. I need to find a trailer and truck so I can drive all the way back to Montana. I'm still not sure how I ended up here or if you're just playing tricks on me."
The man stopped abruptly. "It's Marshal Hayes, ma'am. And what's this trailer you're talking about? And what's a truck?"
Kris stopped and turned. "You're not serious, are you?"
"Will you quit with the ma'am stuff already? My name is Kris."
The Marshal frowned at her. "Alright Miss Kristin. If you could accompany me to my office, I'd gladly talk about this with you. After all, your horse injured two stable hands. If he's found to be dangerous, we'd have to put him down."
Fire flared in Kris's eyes. "You wouldn't dare! If you touch one hair on this horse's body, I will kill you."
He stiffened. "Is that a threat?"
"Your damn right it is!" She turned and walked away from him, angry and frustrated. She was maybe five steps from him when she heard a click behind her. She froze and Tahoe trembled slightly.
"One more step and you'll be limping into a cell rather than sitting outside it." The Marshal growled.
Kris slowly turned and met the Marshal's eyes. He was holding an antique gun on her, but it was aimed right at her left thigh. She took a step back, Tahoe swinging behind her and she watched in horror as the crazy man advanced. She tried to back further, but her right knee was killing her and she had to hang onto Tahoe's saddle in order to stay upright. When the Marshal was only three feet in front of her, Kris had no way out.
"Why is it," he started, "That a woman as pretty as you, is alone in Pontico, Texas? Why would a lady such as your self be riding astride her horse in men's breeches instead of wearing your traditional skirts? And why is it, that you talk like you come from money, but don't look like you have a lick of it?"
Kris swallowed hard and tried to move away, but the Marshal grabbed her by the arm and spun her around. "Hey! Let me go!"
"Answer me! I asked you questions and if you do not answer them, I will throw you in jail."
"You can't do that! I have rights!" Kris gasped.
The Marshal scoffed. "Honey, I don't know what place you came from, but here, I run the town. I say who has what rights and I can throw whoever the he-whoever I want in jail."
"I don't know why I'm alone! I swear, I live in Montana! I ride in pants because everyone where I come from does! And I had a great education, but I'm still paying off the loans that let me have it!"
Marshal Hayes loosened his grip on her arm, but didn't let go. Tears were streaming down the woman's face as she frantically tried to pry his hand from her arm. He felt bad that he was being so mean to her, but her story was unorganized and unbelievable. He knew that it took the coach several days to reach Montana, and he knew very few who wanted to go there. So, how did a woman dressed as a man, end up in Pontico with her horse and barely a scratch? He was about to let her go, but the woman gave one last cry and collapsed against his body. He caught her on impulse and hauled her against him. Her body shook with each sob and he had to support her full body weight because her legs seemed as if they couldn't hold her. Baffled, the Marshal wrapped her in his arms and let the waters flow.
What he didn't expect was to feel his body stir and his groin to tighten. He clenched his eyes shut and mentally cursed himself. Shit! This was no way to react to a woman I was about to arrest. Hell, this was no reaction to a woman who was crying! He could feel her breasts pushed against his chest, her soft belly against his rigid erection. Soon, she felt it too.
Kris stilled in his arms, her sobs dying down to sniffles. She stood a bit straighter and pulled her body flush up against his. Carsyn groaned at the contact and swore when she looked up at him. When he met her eyes, he knew he was in deep…