Walker’s gray hair was barely visible beneath his huge black hat, the shadow of a beard showed on his weathered cheeks. He held Jena’s gaze. His tone rumbled harsh and threatening through the cool early-morning air. “Miss Grant, ya’ll cain’t run this ranch. You two cain’t even take care o’ yurself.”
Everett glared down at her, eyed every inch of her body making her feel unclean. Fear rose up in her throat lodging against the breakfast she’d just eaten.
“I bet ya cain’t even make yur next payment.” He paused as if waiting for her to admit the truth of his taunt. With the motions of an expert, he opened her rifle removed and pocketed the ammunition snapped the rifle shut and tossed the weapon down at her feet.
“I’ll give ya a fair price.” He looked from Jena to Randy then back at Jena. “Y’all can go back east where ya belong.” Arrogance dripped from his tone.
“Go to hell,” Randy said, untangling himself from Carl’s lariat. Jena glared back at the elder Walker. The fear she felt had dissolved leaving a pebble of anger in its wake. The more Everett talked the more her anger grew. “This is our home! This is where our family is buried and this is where we intend to stay,” Jena said, putting emphasis on each word.
“Y’all could git dead,” Carl said. He spat on the ground in front of Randy; then, ever so slowly he coiled his rope, a cocksure grin on his face.
Everett Walker edged his horse closer to Jena, backing her against the porch. He studied her from head to foot until she flushed indignantly.
“Ya got another choice, girl. One of my boys would marry ya. Ya ain’t ugly an ya got a good piece of land here to seal the bargain.” A smirk contorted Everett’s mouth and he looked incredibly pleased with his suggestion.
“Choose, they’s both willing. Y’all can speak the words tomorrow.”
“Never! I...I don’t want to marry anyone,” Jena said. She slid along the edge of the porch trying to put room between herself and Everett.
“Hey, pa, maybe she’d rather have you.” Case chided in an attempt to diffuse the tension.
Carl shot his brother a dirty look. “She’s mine! You go git the preacher. I’ll stay here and git better acquainted.” His cocky leer froze Jena’s backward motion.
Carl steadied his horse, prepared to dismount. He was already lightheaded with lust.
His expression jolted Jena back into action and she continued to back along the porch toward the steps. “No. You can’t make me marry anyone.”
“An you could have another dead brother,” Carl said, leaning from his horse to catch her attention.
Color drained from her face. She was terrified of Everett and his sons, and of the power they wielded in the area. No one ever tried to stop the Walkers from doing or taking what they pleased. Her anger exploded from rock to boulder shoving her fear to the back of her mind. She lifted her chin a notch and stared back at Carl and at Everett. I need time to think. Time to figure a way out of this dilemma. I’m lost if I back down.