September Rain
1858, Dakota Territory
     
    CHAPTER ONE
     
    Jacob Chandler smiled at her today. It wasn’t much of a smile. His mouth hardly moved, no more than a tiny upward quirk of his lips, but she saw it in his eyes.
    It was a victory Hallie Greer had been working to achieve since the first time she’d seen the tall, sad man two years before. She nodded in satisfaction as she lifted another bolt of cloth onto the display table. It was a sweet victory, if a fleeting one.
    Almost as soon as his blue eyes had sparked with the faint light, it was gone, and she’d been once again stabbed to her heart by the sadness in his face as he turned away to load his supplies onto his pack mule.
    Hallie understood sadness now, as she had not the first time she’d seen Jacob. Her father had died three months ago, after a long and exhausting illness. She grieved for him, and probably would for as long as she lived, but her grief didn’t diminish the joy she felt each morning when she saw the sunrise, or the thrill a new book arriving on the supply wagon gave her.
    Jacob Chandler’s sadness went beyond grief. She knew a little about him, this man the townspeople called Crazy Jake. Everyone knew the story of the outlaws who had attacked his farm outside of town. They'd killed his pregnant wife and left him for dead. He had not spoken a word since that day, and as soon as he’d recovered enough, he had gone after the outlaws.
    Nobody knew why he’d returned to Goshen Springs. He’d shown up one day, bought some supplies and a pack mule and disappeared into the mountains. The only time anyone ever saw him was three or four times a year when he came to town to replenish his supplies.
    Hallie reached for another bolt of cloth, hefting it up onto the table beside the first. She smoothed the wrinkles out, enjoying the crisp softness of the new cloth, her mind only half on her chore.
    The first time Jacob had come into the store, Hallie had been showing Mrs. Adams a bolt of cloth much like the one she touched now, and her father was talking to Mr. Adams.
    All conversation had ceased as the door opened, and when Hallie turned, she saw a tall, buckskin clad man. He was whipcord lean, his shoulders were wide and his legs in the buckskin breeches looked powerful.
    Hallie still remembered the thud of her heart when his blue gaze met hers. It was at that moment she decided Jacob Chandler needed to smile. She smiled at him and asked if she could help him, but all he did was hand her a list and begin hefting sacks of potatoes and flour.
    That day she’d learned most of what she knew about him. Mrs. Adams was all too happy to gossip and, for once, Hallie was happy to listen.
    Because he lived alone and never talked, folks assumed he’d been driven insane by the death of his wife. But Hallie knew from his eyes that he wasn't crazy. Whenever he came into the store, she greeted him with a smile and talked to him just like she would any other acquaintance. He never showed any sign that he heard her. Until today.
    Today, he smiled. At her. And just like she’d known it would, his smile put the brightness of a summer sky in his eyes and a flutter of pleasure in her breast.
    The bell over the door tinkled and Brent Myers entered the store. Hallie frowned.
    “Miss Hallie, are you all right?”
    The beefy face of the saloon owner erased her thoughts of Jacob. “I’m fine,” she said shortly, busying herself with stacking the bolts of cloth into perfect rows.
    “I saw you were still here, Why don’t you allow me to escort you home?”
    A suffocating feeling settled on her breast, the same feeling she had every time she was around Brent Myers. He hovered too close, his smile was too familiar, his manner too possessive. She shoved a bolt with rather more force than necessary. “I’m not ready to leave yet, Mr. Myers. I still have quite a bit to do.”
    Myers stepped closer. “You know, Miss Hallie, the days are getting shorter. You shouldn’t stay here by

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