The Gallaghers of Morning Star, Book 2
Mitch Gallagher is a loner, down to the bone. Banished at sixteen from everything and everyone he held dear, he’s an intensely private man whose rusty, unused heart long ago gave up on love. Fragile Perrie Matheson is on the run to protect her beloved son. Too ill to travel further with a winter storm on the way, she has no choice but to gamble her child’s safety on a man who wants only to be left alone.
But during days spent together in the mountain cabin, Mitch and Perrie each find surprises in store … and all the reasons they should stay apart battle with the yearnings of hearts too long denied love.
Read an Excerpt from Texas Lonely
A broken cry drifted on the wind, slicing into the silence that was his trusted companion.
Inside the cabin, Mitch Gallagher’s hands stilled on the tent he was mending. He frowned and turned his head slightly, listening.
No–wait. There it was again, choppy but getting stronger. No animal he’d ever heard sounded like that. It almost sounded like a child, but camping season was over, and no children lived within miles of this very isolated cabin.
He dropped the tent and touched the scabbard at his waist. The knife he’d always carried had been replaced by the one Cy had left him. He missed the old man still.
Just then he heard footsteps, too light to be adult. Broken sobs hit a counterpoint, then a thin, high wail.
He had the door open in seconds.
“My mommy’s hurt! Help her!”
For one single instant, a sharp pain sliced through his heart. The boy looked so much like–
No. Of course it wasn’t Boone. His brother wasn’t a child anymore, hadn’t been in years.
But his hands clenched briefly on the doorknob. He charged down the porch steps. “What happened? Where’s your mother? Are you alone?”
The boy’s eyes went wide, and he backed away, his lower lip trembling. Mitch realized he must seem huge to someone so small, so he dropped to one knee on the ground in front of the boy and gentled his voice. “Are you all right?”
The boy’s cheeks were scratched, his shirt torn at the shoulder. Still frozen in place, his face white and bloodless, the boy breathed in harsh, sharp gasps.
Mitch clasped the child’s shoulders. A shudder ran through the boy, then his teeth began to chatter.
“Son, are you hurt? Tell me where your mother is, so I can help her.”
No response, just the raspy sobs of a child approaching hysteria.
Mitch felt the child’s limbs and ran his hands over the boy’s hair, finding nothing but scratches and bruises beginning to form. But the boy continued to stare at him as though he was some sort of monster.
“Hey, it’s all right–” Mitch pulled the boy close, intending to comfort him.
The motion galvanized the child into action. “No! Don’t hurt me!”
Mitch’s hands dropped away instantly. “All right. Calm down. Take a deep breath. Tell me where your mother is.”
The little body visibly trembled. The boy’s eyes filled with tears again. “I–I don’t know.”
“Son, look at me.” Mitch kept his voice pitched softly, the way he would with a wounded animal.
The boy watched him with suspicion too old for his tender years.
“We’re going to find your mother. Don’t worry. I can track anything that moves, but it’s going to be dark soon. I could use your help.”
“Me?” The blue eyes widened. “I’m too little.”
“No, you’re not. Tell me which direction you came from.”
“Over there,” the boy pointed. “My grandpa’s cabin was supposed to be this way.” His lower lip quivered. “My mom said it wasn’t far, right before she fell down.” Tears filled his eyes again. “She won’t talk to me. Is she dead?” He rushed on without an answer, his words tumbling over one another. “Where’s Grandpa Cy? He was gonna help us.”
Grandpa Cy? Dear God, it couldn’t be– Mitch clasped the boy’s shoulders. “What’s your mom’s name, son?” Surely she wouldn’t– Mitch almost missed the name in the confusion of his thoughts.
“Perrie. Perrie Matheson, that’s my mom’s name.”
It was her–Cy’s granddaughter from Boston. The callous socialite who had broken his only friend’s heart. Who hadn’t cared enough to visit or write, wouldn’t even take Mitch’s call when he’d left Cy’s side for the three-hour trip to a phone, scared to his bones that Cy would die while he was gone. He’d been prepared to beg, and she’d been too busy to answer a damn phone. Mitch rose to pace.
“What’s wrong, mister?”
Mitch shot the boy a quick frown and saw him take a step back. Looking down, Mitch saw that his hands were clenched into fists. He was probably scaring the kid to death. He sucked in a deep breath and forced himself to calm. Emotions were useless. Nothing good came of feeling too much. And sometimes you lost more than you could bear.
The kid wasn’t at fault for his mother’s sins. And Mitch had promised. He didn’t renege on a promise. For the boy, not for her, he would do this.
“Okay. Stay behind me and stay quiet unless you see something familiar. Don’t get in front of me, whatever you do, because you’ll trample the tracks I’m looking for. Got it?”
“Yes, sir.” The boy ducked his head, and Mitch could still see tears sparkle on his lashes.
Gingerly, Mitch reached out one hand and laid it on the boy’s head, surprised by the softness of the golden hair. Immediately he pulled it back.
“We’ll find her, son.”
“Yes, sir.” Like a tiny soldier, the boy drew himself up straight. “I’ll be quiet.” He looked ahead to the way he’d pointed, and Mitch could almost see the resolve of the man the boy would become.
How had a pampered, selfish woman produced this child?
It didn’t matter. She was probably fine, just didn’t have the stamina to make the two-mile hike up the mountain. Instead, she’d sent this poor little guy for help. Mitch would find her, tell her what he thought of her, and send them on their way. Cy had given Mitch this cabin after he’d given up on his granddaughter caring whether he lived or died. Though home was a luxury Mitch never expected to know again, he would be damned if that woman would spend a single hour inside the only place that had welcomed him in the last twenty years.