Reprinted from Hope: Brides of the West 1872 with permission of Heart Quest Books.

Back story: Hope Kallahan, impoverished after her father's death, answers an ad for a mail-order bride. On her way to meet her fiancé, she is kidnapped from a stagecoach. As she comes to find out, one of the kidnappers is an undercover government agent. He rescues her but is wounded while they're on the run. Now he lies ill in a mountain cave, with only Hope to protect him.

A cougar, the size of Aunt Thalia's fainting couch, crouched near the mouth of the cave. Its yellow-eyed gaze held her captive, its tail slowly twitching.

Dan was in that cave--unprotected, alone.


Swallowing against her rising hysteria, Hope lifted the rifle and took careful aim. She fired twice. When she dared to open her eyes, she saw the tail end of the cat bounding off through the underbrush.

Sinking to her knees, she dropped the gun and stared at the spot where the cougar had been not two minutes ago.

Throwing her head back, she addressed God in a way that would have sent Papa in search of the biggest hickory switch he could find.

"I can't stand anymore of this! Faith! I need faith!"

When she came back into the cave, Dan was sitting up. He glanced at her, his face flushed, his hair tousled, a heavy growth of beard covering his face.

"You look nice."

Cradling his head in his arms, he muttered, "Why are you yelling at God?"

She propped the rifle against the cave wall. "I've tried talking. He isn't listening."Lying back down, Dan closed his eyes. "Come here."

She moseyed closer, feeling ashamed of herself. Reaching for her hand, he gently pulled her down beside him. Holding her close, he said softly, "God doesn't respond to shouts."

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