Lawfully Admired is available on Amazon
Melissa Miller is tired of being alone. Angry, bitter and jaded, she is fully aware that her marriage prospects are horribly slim after the war. With the threat of outlaws raiding towns nearby, her very safety, as well as her mother’s, is at risk. She cannot afford to have her chance at happiness whisked away. But just when she thought she couldn’t take much more and had lost her faith, he walked into her world. Gideon is full of laughter, an inner light and a buoyant personality that she craves… but he is harboring a secret.
Gideon Ashton waltzed into the small north Texas town on a wing and a prayer. A request for help to protect the citizens had been passed to him and it felt like divine guidance when he met Melissa. He happened upon the lonely young woman one afternoon, causing a flutter in his stomach and a rush of feelings that had been locked away. She’s everything that he felt was missing in his life and more, causing a fierce yearning for a future he’d never considered before.
Melissa had clutched at the bitterness, solitude and anger inside of her for so long. Hope, love and the possibility of living happily ever after one day is suddenly squashed when she realizes that Gideon’s past and the dangers of life in the saddle could take him from her at any moment. Can they find love, a renewed faith, and acceptance in each other when the need arises?
HERE IS AN EXCERPT
Melissa Miller sat stunned as she listened to her mother wail desperately in the background. Dr. McGraw’s dark head shook slowly at her, indicating that her father had passed. Her young life had been filled with despair and death for most of it. As if the screams of denial from the other room weren’t enough to indicate this already? Her father had suffered for the last several years since his return from the War between the States. The pain from the injury to his leg and the constant fever he had fought, had finally claimed him.
They literally had nothing, and she felt so ungrateful right now.He wasn’t suffering anymore. Neither were they. It had killed her to watch him deteriorate in front of her very eyes. Bitterness swamped her, clenching at her heart. She didn’t realize the guilty relief that would come with his passing. They had a roof over their head; they had their health and each other. Food was there, even if it wasn’t abundant. Melissa had kept up the business for the family, in order to ease the burden on her mother.
When her father had left for the war, he promised to return quickly. Melissa’s mother, Eleanor, had taken the time to attempt to run the shop. Run it she had… into near ruin. Her mother could keep a home like no other. She could cook a meal so fine it would make the angels weep. Her recipes from the family had been perfected. Balancing the books or making ends meet – that had not been her forte.
At thirteen, Melissa’s father had left to do his duty for God and country.At fourteen, Melissa was now running her father’s barber shop with little help. She had grown up watching him, hiding in the background as ‘young ladies were to learn how to keep a home’. He always teased her that she would catch a man if she could cook like her mama. She could cook, but her time seemed to have been better spent with him now. There were no men to be had in town anyways. They were either married, older, much younger, or simply uninterested.
A large crate used to be slid across the floor for her to be able to reach the customer’s hair easily. Now, the crate sat in the corner as a shelf. She had grown tall and blossomed. Menfolk didn’t balk at the idea of a young girl cutting hair anymore. Nor did they protest a shave. Melissa had given free shaves for a month for two reasons: simply to prove she could do it, and practice, practice, practice!
Now, at the age of twenty, Melissa was as accomplished as any other trained barber, and her father was proud of her. The shop had maintained itself; they had a few dollars to their name, and things seemed to be going good until the reaper struck. One door closed, a window would open – or so she prayed.
Prayers that went unanswered.
His fever had spiked yesterday, and he had passed peacefully during the night. When he had been pale and sallow at dinner, she had insisted on fetching the doctor. He had refused, saying that it was indigestion. By the time she had helped him limp to the door, she had smelled the sour emanating from him. When questioned, he claimed it was time for a good soaking and that he had worked up a sweat tilling the garden for Eleanor. It was February in Texas. Nothing would be put in the soil for at least another month and if he was tilling the yard? She was a fairytale princess, and this rickety home, a grand castle.
She needed a moment to compose herself, so she could be strong. Throwing a blanket around her shoulders, she stepped outside for fresh air. It would be a long night of tears and heartbreak. Melissa was barely aware of the men who carried her father’s body out into the night towards Buchannan funeral home; she was only aware that he was gone and her mother was clawing at his body in an effort to hang on to him.
“Mother, stop it. He would want you to be strong and dignified. Ladies do not act distraught in front of others, remember? Behind closed doors you mourn. That is what you told me when my pup died.”
“It’s not the same,” Eleanor cried out through her tears in a scathing tone. The betrayal and shock in her eyes burned hot through Melissa as she felt guilty at admonishing her. It had felt like the roles had reversed long ago for them; her mother the child and she was now the adult leading them both through each day.
“I know it’s not, but loss is felt regardless of how we express it. Come, mother. Rest your eyes and we shall make arrangements tomorrow.” Melissa removed the blanket she’d tossed around her own shoulders to protect her from the cold night air. She lay it gently around her mother’s. She seemed so fragile, so lost.
“Why aren’t you crying? Don’t you realize your father is gone?”
“Mother, he was gone long ago and only a shell of him returned from the war. I did my mourning long before the war was ever lost and he came home,” Melissa told her gently, gathering her mother’s shaking frame into her arms in an effort to comfort her.
“It will be okay. I will always take care of you.”
Bitterness and helplessness made Melissa feel like an empty husk. She had seen no change in her future, no promise of hope, no faith in praying for intervention or guidance. She heard there had been talk of mailing off to invite men into town, but that only brought the worst of the worst. Desperados, bushwackers, degenerates, and slovenly men had been seen about town, ushering in a need for protection. She didn’t want to be dependent on someone like her mother had been, nor did she want to admit there was danger present. She had her father’s Colt to protect them, or die trying to.
Her father’s death and funeral had been awful. The silence, the crying, the complete shutdown she had seen in her mother was infuriating. She could understand mourning, of course, who couldn’t? But the lying daily in bed despondent, refusing to eat what little food they had?The complete abandonment of maintaining their home? It was wasteful and aggravating. Melissa wanted to run away.
She wanted a change.
Some sort of happiness, something to fill the emptiness that she felt. Some way to focus the blackening rage into something that would soothe her soul instead of crushing it. She missed laughing and smiling. Those days were long gone and each day seemed to drag by into nothingness- a great yawning void of soul-sucking depression.
Melissa had seen a few strangers come into town, but none that seemed to ‘ring her bell’ like her father used to say. She remembered those days, crawling onto a knee as he would chastise her into behaving properly for her mother while he was gone. When she had been thirteen, she’d barely comprehended what leaving for the war would entail.
All she remembered was that Father would be gone, she would be waiting, and until he returned? She was to act like a lady, be on her best behavior, and not be like those loose “nanny’s” beyond the railroad tracks that worked at the saloon. There had been a distinct difference in how you addressed women, as Melissa quickly learned.
Governesses were well respected but a nanny? Well, a nanny in Texas was another word for a lady of the night. Much to her chagrin, she had said it aloud in public that they were getting a nanny for the house to help out before the war.
That talk had Melissa apologizing to her mother for the disrespect shown to her. She had told others that a woman of loose morals would be at the house by mistake, but instead? It would be a new governess that had the strictest code for her to learn by. She had been mortified that she had bragged about their guest coming into their home…and yet? She’d managed to run her off a few weeks after her father had left by her scandalous behavior.
It wasn’t scandalous or shameful, but more eye-opening. To learn that her father would not be coming back for some time and her mother had intended to let the shop be properly unattended? It was terrible! The second time that the monies had disappeared and word had spread that the Maypearl bank had been robbed? Fourteen-year-old Melissa had put two and two together… evicting her mother from the barbershop and showing just how headstrong she really was!
Her governess had been fired immediately by Melissa. And with her shocked mother passed out on the floor, muttering for smelling salts? It was the fastest way to save money and keep a roof over their heads. There was no protest other than the sputtering from the governess and the slamming of the door. It was ridiculous to pay the woman for her to teach her to play piano, sew and cook. Those were things Melissa could teach herself, or by paying attention to her mother, especially for the extravagance that she cost the family.
Melissa had taken over everything.
The results of that decision had made sure they had food on the table, a roof over their heads, and a meager amount of the new money held fast in their pockets. After the robbery, she had split their funds in two. Half went to the bank for safe-keeping and half was hidden away at the house. They didn’t have much and she’d be darned if it would be stored in one place! Her end goal was to make sure that her mother could be taken care of if she ever chose to be on her own. Until then, Melissa would take care of the house, even if it took a toll.
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About Ginny Sterling
Ginny Sterling is an avid romance writer.
She enjoys telling tales that tug at the heart. She enjoys reading and creating stories that leave the reader smiling, laughing or crying.
She mostly writes Western Romances Books - including The Lawkeepers. She also writes Contemporary romance, as well as the Timeless Brides Series (Time travel romance) under the pen name, Gina Cole.
Having lived in several different parts of the United States, she and her family have settled in Kentucky. She spends all of her free time writing, quilting, or shopping for coffee mugs to add to her collection.
You can find Ginny Sterling on these social media sites