Seeking an unusual woman for matrimony. A helpmate in the serving of justice. Marriage in name only. Sheriff Holmes, Ridgemont, Colorado.
Talia spent most of the trip West praying she wasn’t making the biggest mistake of her life. And Lord knew, there’d been plenty of mistakes thus far in her twenty-some years on earth. She took solace from the fact that a group of women she knew and trusted from the church back home were convinced this was the right choice.
To date, the group had matched dozens of destitute, young, female parishioners with lonely, God-fearing bachelors on the other side of the country. Two of them even remembered Sheriff Holmes’s father, a preacher who had, unfortunately, been killed doing the Lord’s work. They encouraged her to put her name forward.
“What does marriage in name only mean?” she had asked one of the older ladies from the church who was helping her pen her response to the sheriff.
“He means it won’t be necessary for you to share his bed.”
Talia wasn’t sure what kind of helper the sheriff needed, office work perhaps, but compared to working off her deceased husband’s tavern debts, this chance to make a fresh start far from the Brooklyn docks and the tenement where she grew up seemed like the answer to a prayer, and before long she had a train ticket in her hand.
Her heart rate sped up as the train began to slow. “Next stop, Durango,” yelled the conductor. Talia rose and wiped her damp palms on the front of her best skirt. A dull-colored, serviceable cotton, it had been nothing special to start with, even before it became wrinkled and dusty from the trip. As she prepared to disembark, she wondered what kind of woman the sheriff was expecting, and prayed he was a kind man.
As she stared at her surroundings, inhaling the unfamiliar, dry, desert air, a man approached, dark-hair visible beneath his brown Stetson, sunlight hitting a silver star pinned to his chest. She smiled tentatively, but he walked right past her as if she was invisible.
“Sheriff?” she called. “Sheriff Holmes?”
He turned and his eyes raked over her in an impatient way that left her feeling wanting. He took a tentative step toward her, eyes narrowed. “Mrs. Frank?”
Relief flooded through her as she nodded.
He came right up to her then. Tall and broad-shouldered, he loomed over her, making her feel insignificant. “You’re Mrs. Frank?”