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28833189-26297421-Raven-by-Norah-Hess

28833189-26297421-Raven-by-Norah-Hess

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Published by margosm

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Published by: margosm on Jul 08, 2013
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01/20/2015

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Raven
With love to sister June.Through the uncurtained window of a log cabin a shrill scream pierced the night. And in the dark of midnight a baby girl with pitch-black hair was born.She was named Raven.
Chapter One
 
Nineteen-year-old Raven McCloud Spencer knelt at her husband's side, watchinghis life's blood spill out onto the dirty floor of the saloon.Her green eyes shed no tears. Her only emotion was relief. At last she was freeof him. Never again would she be forced to sit beside him at a gambling table,exposed to the penetrating eyes of the rabble that gathered at Milo Spencer'stable to ogle the firm tops of breasts revealed by her low-cut dress.She had objected strongly the first week after they were married when Miloordered her to wear the breasts!"He had only laughed and drawled. "That's the idea, honey. Just keep the nipplescovered. I want the men so busy trying to see down the front of your dress, theywon't be paying any attention to what my fingers are doing."She had not given in at first, but when he backed up his verbal threats with hisfists, she had no choice. So it had continued, the men ogling her bare-bosomedbeauty, lust stabbing out of their bold, hungry eyes. Milo was often urged to useher as his ante. He had always refused... until last night.He had been losing heavily, despite his slick manipulation of the cards. She couldtell he was becoming desperate by the sheen of sweat on his brow.Of the five men who had been playing, three had dropped out and thereremained only her husband and a man whose dusty clothes and unshaven facesaid that he had been on a cattle drive for some time.Unlike the other men, who looked at her with leering eyes, this one hadn'tseemed to pay any attention to her since he joined the game.She had been startled and shocked when the cowboy said, "There's close to athousand dollars lying there on the table. You can have it all in exchange forletting me spend one night with your wife."She had looked at Milo and gasped softly when she saw indecision in his eyes.He was actually considering the man's offer. In the hush that came over thetable and bystanders, she had jumped to her feet and run from the saloon....* * * As the patrons and saloon women stood in a circle around Raven and her deadhusband, she felt thebartender gently lift her to her feet. Milo had been caught cheating at cards."Let me take you back to your room, Raven. A couple of the men will carry Miloover to the funeralhome. You can make arrangements with the director in the morning."Funeral arrangements, Raven thought bitterly. Well, at least money would be noproblem.
 
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When they arrived at her room and she unlocked the door, the big saloon ownersaid awkwardly, "If you're short of money, Raven, to see Milo properly buried, I can lend you whatyou need.""That's awfully kind of you, Tom, but it's not necessary," she said automatically,unable to believe that anyof this was real.The big man shrugged. "I thought I'd offer. If you change your mind, you knowwhere I am."Raven stepped into her room and after locking the door behind her she flungherself onto the bed and lether hopeless tears flow. As of tonight, her whole life had changed. How couldshe live with herself afterwhat her husband had forced her to do?"Damn you, Tory," she sobbed, "where were you when I needed you sodesperately?"She hadn't seen her brother, twelve years her elder, for over a year. He hadbeen working as a ranchhand on a big spread in Nevada and had seemed content for the time being.But she knew her brother well, his restlessness, his inability to settle down in oneplace for long. He couldhave moved on twice since she'd last seen him.Tory was thirty-one years old, and ever since she could remember, his dreamhad been to own his ownranch some day. "I want to be my own boss, Raven," he'd say. "I want to dothings the way I think theyshould be done, not have to listen to orders that I know are wrong."Twelve-year-old Tory and Grandpa McCloud had raised her since the night shewas born. Herprolonged birth had been too much for her frail little mother, and sighing gently,she had joined herhusband, dead from an Indian arrow only three months before.Raven's rearing had been a haphazard affair, but full of love. She had learnedfrom her grandfatherhonesty and the ability to look life in the face.She could still hear him say, "Take all you can from life, Raven. If you don't, itwill take from you.""How do you stop it taking, Grandpa?" she had asked."You gotta stand up to it and not let it get the best of you. If what you want isworth havin', fight tooh andnail for it. But if it's of small importance, don't waste your wits on it. And alwaysremember this, honey:The young fool will die an old fool if he don't pay heed to his mistakes as hegoes along the trail of life."

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