Book 6: Pink Pistol Sisterhood
A sharpshooter hiding her identity. A preacher with a guilty past. Will secrets ruin their shot at love?
Violet Taylor leads a double life. She performs in a traveling show as the mysterious Masked Marvel, a daring and commanding sharpshooter . But in real life she holds back and allows others to lead the way. When an accident puts her arm in a sling she has to scramble to protect the secret of her identity as the Masked Marvel. So she enlists the help of her identical twin sister, a “townie” dressmaker, to secretly swap places until her arm heals. But that means she must also take on her sister's role as director of a children's church program. Before leaving, her sister informs Violet that she’s sweet on Pastor Carson, the program’s co-director, so she’d appreciate it if Violet doesn’t mess anything up with him.
Pastor Carson Davis became guardian to an orphaned nine-year-old six months ago and has been struggling to build a relationship with the boy ever since. It’s to the point where he’s begun to wonder if he’s even fit to be a pastor. Could finding himself a wife who'd be a proper mother figure for his foster son be the solution?
As Violet and Carson work together on the children’s program the attraction between them grows. But mindful of her sister’s feelings and guilt over her deception hold Violet back.
Little does she know that Carson is harboring secrets of his own…
“You are Lily Mayfield. You are Lily Mayfield. You are Lily Mayfield. You are not Violet Taylor.”
Violet smoothed her skirt with her good hand and took a shaky breath. Even saying the litany out loud hadn’t made it feel any more believable.
Would she really be able to pull this off? The plan to swap places with her twin had seemed so simple when Wyatt first concocted it. But now that he and Lily had boarded a train and left town, leaving her here with Aunt Adeline, a woman she barely knew, it no longer seemed such a good idea.
Lily had had a very genteel upbringing and worked with her great aunt in a dress shop, working with customers and designing and creating lovely frocks. Violet had been raised on a ranch by her grandfather where she'd been surrounded by ranch hands, and nowadays she worked as a sharpshooter in a travelling show.
But she couldn’t hide in Lily’s bedroom all morning. Violet took a deep breath and stood. Aunt Adeline would have breakfast ready by now--she shouldn't keep her waiting.
As Violet passed the vanity that held numerous scent and lotion filled bottles, she caught a glimpse of the solid mahogany box she’d placed front and center there last night. It looked about as out of place as a burly strong man trying to step into a graceful trapeze act.
She traced the lines of the inlay on the lid with a finger. But her thoughts were on the sheet of paper that was included with the pistol. The promise of true love—did such a thing even exist?
Violet shook off that thought and straightened. Now was not the time for such wonderings.
She quickly checked her appearance in the mirror. Since her right arm was in a sling Aunt Adeline had helped her get dressed this morning. Her aunt had assured her this lovely blue creation was one of Lily’s everyday dresses, but it was fancier than anything Violet owned. She supposed working in a dress shop required one to dress fashionably. But truth to tell, with all the fastenings, Violet wasn't sure she could have managed alone with two good hands. As for the deceptively easy hairstyle... She rolled her eyes. Her usual style might be plainer but it suited her much better.
A moment later Violet slid into the dining chair across from Aunt Adeline. "Sorry if I kept you waiting,"
"Nonsense. You’re right on time." Aunt Adeline's soft face wore a sympathetic expression. "I know this isn't easy for you."
Violet didn’t respond immediately. Instead she studied the breakfast fare—a plate of delicate toast points, a jar of marmalade, two poached eggs and juice. It was a sharp contrast to her typical breakfast of scrambled eggs, crisp bacon, sourdough biscuits and black coffee. She reached for the glass of juice and met her aunt’s gaze. "I'm worried I won't be able to pull this off."
"It's only until your arm heals--four weeks at most you said. And I'll help you as much as I can."
She smiled at the older woman. "And I appreciate that. But we both know that even though I look like Lily, I don't have her confidence, her vivaciousness. People are bound to notice."
"Perhaps. But we can blame your injury for the change in you. And besides, I think you have a spark of your own. Perhaps it’s a quieter spark, but that doesn't make it any less special."
Violet fidgeted with her toast. “But I don’t have Lily’s ease with people. That’s something you can’t fake.”
Aunt Adeline gave her an assessing look. "If I understand your role in that traveling circus you work at, you perform your sharp shooting act in front of throngs of people. I wouldn't think this would be very different."
"But it is. When I'm performing I wear a mask so no one knows who I am—that makes it easier to be brave.” She leaned forward, trying to make her aunt understand. “In my act I'm only interacting with the target, not the people. And I know just what my role is and I know I'm good at it."
Her companion nodded. "Well then, that’s your answer. Pretend you’re wearing a mask of sorts and giving a performance. Within a few days I'd be willing to wager you'll be as comfortable in this role as you are in your Masked Marvel one."
Violet thought about that as she took a bite of her poached egg. Perhaps it would help to think of this as more of a performance than the desperate move it was. Then she mustered up a smile. "I suppose we'll see how versatile a performer I am shortly." She dropped her gaze and fiddled with her fork. Time to change the subject. “Tell me about this pastor I’ll be working with later this morning.”
“Pastor Davis is a fine young man and the congregation loves him. He’s a good leader, is well spoken, compassionate and steadfast.” She tilted her head. “I take it you know Lily is taken with him.”
Violet nodded. “Do you know if those feelings are returned?” She certainly didn’t want to have to try to keep up this deception in the midst of a courtship.
“Oh I really don’t think so.” She pointed her fork Violet’s way. “Pastor Davis is an attractive, single man with a young son. He’s thirty and holds a respected position in town. Just about every eligible young lady in Larkin has her eye on him, including your sister.”
He was attractive, was he? “With all of those qualifications it’s surprising he hasn’t married already.”
Her aunt sobered. “He was once. I hear his wife died about two years ago from a fever.”
“Oh, that’s awful.” Was he still nursing a broken heart?
Her aunt’s expression took on a slightly cynical twist. “That tragic history also serves to make him more attractive to soft-hearted, romantic-minded young ladies.” Then she smiled. “Not that he appears to have let it go to his head. He’s always the perfect gentleman and never seems to show a preference for one lady over another. Including Lily I’m afraid.”
Rather than respond to that, Violet shifted the focus. “So he’s had to raise his son without a wife.”
“Oh no, Mark’s not actually his son. In fact Mark has only been living with him for about six months, which was when his mother died. I believe the pastor was a friend of the boy’s father.”
They must have been good friends indeed for him, a single man, to take guardianship of his child. And this was the man she was going to try to convince that she was Lily.