High Plains Bride
May 2007
Harlequin Historical #847
ISBN-10: 0373294476
ISBN-13: 978-0373294473

Out of print. Available as e-book.

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Behind the Story


Sarah knew exactly what she wanted. Tom West would help her rescue her daughter, their daughter, from the hands of the Sioux, or die trying. It was, she swore, the least he could do to atone for fourteen years of deceit!

Tom West blamed himself. He'd had to let Sarah believe him dead--even though she'd been his only love. But this reunion was born of danger, not desire, as this firebrand of a woman was quick to remind him.

Could they bridge the chasm of mistrust yawning between them to save their child--and their love?


Reviews for High Plains Bride

“Jenna Kernan tells a great Western historical.”
Romance Reviews Today

"A beautiful and bittersweet read. The hope and love in this story rings true and the characters are people in whom readers will want to believe. Those who enjoy Westerns or tales of lovers reunited will not want to miss this book. It has found a place on my keeper shelf and I know I will be reading it again."
Lynn Spencer, All About Romance

“Kernan writes an emotionally charged, heartwarming tale of love lost and found.”
Romantic Times

Excerpt from High Plains Bride

Chapter One
California, 1864

“Turn around, you son of a bitch.”

Tom West heard the emphasizing click of the pistol cocking. The woman’s voice was not familiar. He lowered the razor pressed to his throat and lifted the towel, wiping off the remaining suds with measured strokes in hopes that she would not plant a bullet in his kidney.

He turned to the woman, trying to place her. Full green skirts and a deerskin jacket revealed little about her age or shape. The wide brim hat cast her face in deep shadow, showing only the stubborn set of her chin and the thin, grim line of her pressed lips.

She looked prepared to kill him. In his mind there was only one woman he’d given cause. But that was fourteen years ago.


The corner of her mouth quirked, and she lifted her chin to reveal familiar gray eyes. His breath caught. Time had stolen the round face, replacing soft features with high cheekbones and a pointed chin. Faint lines engraved the fine skin at her eyes - her beauty no longer pliant, but etched in granite.

“Mrs. West now,” she said, rubbing his nose in it.

He gritted his teeth, refusing to acknowledge her marriage. Fourteen years, and the pain was as fresh as the day he first heard the news.

“You promised to come back,” she said, keeping the gun level.

“And you promised to wait.”

A flicker of emotion changed her expression from steel to sorrow. She blinked, and the muzzle dipped. Recovering quickly, she focused and aimed. Thomas braced for the bullet.

“I need your help,” she said.

“Funny way to ask, creeping up on a man and pointing a gun at his guts.”

“Just wanted to assure your attention.”

He swabbed the towel over his cheek again, removing the sweat with the remaining soap. “You have it.”

She released the hammer. “The Indians took my daughter. You’re going to help me get her back.”

He scowled. “You want help? You best ask the girl’s father.”

A vicious smile widened her full lips. “You are her father, Thomas.”

The razor slipped from his hand, clattering off the porch planking. He scraped against the rough cedar shingles as he sat with a thud on the wooden porch. Somehow Sarah had shot him without ever pulling the trigger.

His ears rang with the thunder rolling through his brain, as her words echoed like a rifle shot through a box canyon. Her father - you are – father. The faithless woman who could not wait for his return had borne him a child. The possibility of it sank its teeth into the marrow of his bones. But Samuel had told him -- her words butted against his brother’s as he tried to understand what was happening.

Memories flashed through his mind. The air was scented with pine the night Sarah crawled through his bedroom window that last night before he headed for the goldfields. She came to him and loved him and promised to wait forever.

A few months later she had wed.

He sat motionless as Sarah squatted before him, the smile gone as she stared with fierce intensity.

“You hear me?”

Thomas nodded.

She holstered her pistol and strode across the porch to the water barrel, returning with a dipper full. She held the offering to his lips. He swallowed the warm water as he gazed at the face that had not left him for so much as a day in fourteen long years.

Had she tracked him all the way from Illinois?

Water dribbled down his chin, soaking the front of his shirt. She righted the dipper and flung the dregs out into the yard. He watched the water arch and fall, changing the dry dirt into droplets of mud. For the first time, he noted the freckled gelding, saddled and packed for the trail, resting a hind hoof as it stood beneath the old cedar.

Thomas met Sarah’s intent gaze, searching the face he had once hoped to see every morning for the rest of his life, back in the days when he believed women could be faithful. Before Sarah tore his heart from his chest and threw it in the dirt like the water dregs.

When he found his voice, he didn’t recognize the strangled thing it had become. “You sure she’s mine?”

She snorted, rising from the squatting position before him. The ladle swung from her fingers as she headed back to the rain barrel, taking her time, as if counting to ten.

“When we find her, you can judge for yourself.”

She stopped at a safe distance, far enough that he couldn’t see the blue flecks in her eyes. He staggered to his feet, making it to the upright beam supporting the porch roof. His stomach heaved, poised to expel the contents of his breakfast. He kept it down by force of will, refusing to humiliate himself before her.

Sarah closed the distance to a few paces, then hesitated, pinning him with a wary gaze. He studied her, searching in vain for a strand of silver in her thick chestnut braid. His red-gold hair had faded at his temples before he hit thirty. More white crept into his crown, stealing its former radiance. Judging from her face, she retained her slim figure as well as her rich hair color - though the innocence was gone from her eyes, along with the hope. In their place shone grim determination.

“You have some explaining to do,” he said.

She harrumphed. “I have? That’s a hoot, because I never did see your face after you left town. Still searching for your fortune, Thomas?” She settled a fist upon her hip. “Still planning to come back to me?”

The resentment rang in her voice like a bell. She sounded as if she hated him, as if she was the one betrayed. He scowled at her as he considered what her words implied.

He had made his fortune in California, mining miners instead of ore, for all the good it did him. Selling hardware to all those men gave him wealth. But money could not buy what he had lost. And now she stood on the porch scowling like a woman scorned.

“I wrote Samuel,” he said.

Uncertainty flickered in her eyes. Confusion knit her brow as she leaned forward, leading with her stubborn chin. Damn him if he didn’t want to kiss her still. He must be insane. He gritted his teeth, forcing hot air into his lungs through flaring nostrils until the urge to touch her faded, but not completely. No – never completely.

“When?” she asked.

“Soon as I was able. Damn you and him both.”