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Flirting With The Law (Outlaw Brides Book 1)

By:Vanessa Vale

CHAPTER ONE


Madison Thomas


"Are you sure you wish to do this?" I asked, glancing down at the two  women before me, my damp hands smoothing down my dress even though it  didn't need it. We stood on the shady side of the Mercantile, just  around the corner from the Rollinsville bank. The air was quite warm and  being as anxious as I was, sweat dripped down between my breasts  beneath my silk dress. On the outside, I appeared calm, or at least I  hoped I did, but on this inside, I was shaking like a leaf.

Tara and Amanda were so young and innocent, even after two previous  robberies. We were just about to commit the third. Hopefully, the last.  If we were successful this time, we'd be able to walk away, never break  the law again. Yet I'd still corrupted them. It had been my idea. All of  it.

Norman Rollins had been the one who forced us to be criminals. We'd had  no choice. He'd ruined us all. We'd been left with nothing. Families  destroyed. Destitute. We were just getting back what rightfully belonged  to each of us so we could survive. They had parents to return to,  brothers and sisters, albeit much poorer, but I had no one. Mr. Rollins  had seen to that as well. I was focused on revenge.

"You can change your mind," I offered. One last chance. We'd gotten away  twice, but there was always a chance we'd be caught. A very big chance.  If I were a gambler, I'd say the odds weren't in our favor.

I took a deep breath, hoped the smile on my face wasn't as brittle and  false as it felt. I hated robbing banks. It wasn't in my nature to  steal, but I had to do it. I was driven to. My anger pushed me.

But Tara and Amanda? They could walk away now. I would understand if they changed their minds.

We could be caught. I wasn't sure if a connection was made between the  various banks, all of them belonging to Mr. Rollins, and there was a  chance the law was waiting for us. To catch us in the act.

I didn't want either of them to feel guilty for changing their minds.  They hadn't yet, but I had to be sure. Each time, I asked. I was doing  this, with or without them. I wanted to see Mr. Rollins suffer and  taking his money was certainly a way to do that for someone so miserly. I  could just shoot him and be done with it, but that would be too easy  for him. I wanted him to know what it felt like to be helpless and  broken. I wanted everyone to know what he'd done, the kind of man he  really was.

"You look very pretty today," Tara replied, adjusting the ribbon for her  hat beneath her chin. "That shade of blue looks fetching with your dark  hair. And the silk." She sighed with obvious envy.

I was lost a moment in her change of topic, but I agreed with her. It  was a lovely dress, the nicest dress I owned. Before Mr. Rollins wanted  Daddy's ranch, we'd been well off enough to have a few finer things.  This dress had been one of them.

"We're robbing a bank. I don't think her dress is something we should be  considering now," Amanda scolded. She eyed my outfit. "It does look  nice on you."

I tried not to roll my eyes. What we were about to do … again, was not  smart. It was downright idiotic, illegal and something completely out of  our elements. Although, we seemed to be rather proficient at it since  we'd successfully robbed two banks in the southwest corner of the  Montana Territory. To me, that didn't matter. I was driven by my anger  and need to destroy the bank's owner and if I needed to be an outlaw to  do it, so be it. Even though they assisted in the robberies, Tara and  Amanda weren't outlaws. Not really. I doubted they ever missed a church  service. It just continued to surprise me they were prepared to be  accomplices in another bank robbery. I had to wonder what they'd told  their families they were up to.

We'd devised a plan, but I doubted it was anything like the infamous  James Gang's routine. It had worked. Twice. No bank teller expected a  well dressed woman to pull a gun on him. We'd used that to our  advantage, but I doubted Tara or Amanda knew the gravity of our actions.  They were young, not quite twenty and blatantly naive. Looking at them  now, I worried for them. The weight of the revolver in my reticule was  nothing compared to the guilt upon my shoulders. I was corrupting them  with my own reasons for action. Yes, Mr. Rollins had taken their  families' ranches too, but they still actually had family. I wanted Mr.  Rollins to be destroyed, just as he'd destroyed my father. But was this  the way to go about it, pulling them in as accomplices?

They could find suitable husbands, men who would love them and make them  forget about their pasts. If they kept silent, these men wouldn't even  know they were wanted criminals. They were innocent in all ways-except  bank robbery. Both had hair the color of golden wheat, but Tara was tall  and lithe while Amanda was petite and curvy. Beautiful and with their  lives ahead of them. Innocent and marriageable. If we were caught …          

     



 

I shook my head, not willing to risk any prospects for full and happy  lives for them. We'd hang, side by side. "Never mind. We're not doing  this together. You've done all you need. Not quite your full amounts Mr.  Rollins took, but still. I will go on my own."

"No." Amanda's one word was loud and made Tara startle. "We're going in  there and taking what belongs to us. And you're right, we have almost  all our money back. You haven't gotten all the money owed you yet." She  pointed over her shoulder in the direction of the bank and it was  possible she stomped her foot on the boardwalk. "It's not fair what Mr.  Rollins did to you, to all of us. He didn't burn our houses, nor put our  fathers into early graves, but we want to see him get what he deserves.  We've almost all our shares. We're getting yours now."

We'd been saying this to each other over the past two weeks, perhaps to  validate our intentions, but the vehemence behind Amanda's tone this  time was surprising. She wanted to do this and clearly wasn't planning  on changing her mind. I thought they were mild, but I was perhaps wrong.

"The plan works," Tara added, giving a decisive head nod. "Men might rule the world, but women have them by the balls."

Amanda gasped and I couldn't help but laugh. People who passed turned at  looked at us, three women chatting and amusing themselves, not  preparing for bank robbery. We didn't look anything like a gang of  thieves. Being female was the best disguise.

"What?" Tara asked, patting her hair. I couldn't miss the bright spots  of color on her cheeks. "I might be a maiden, but I'm not completely  naive. Not after what we've done."

No, perhaps they weren't. While they looked that way, Mr. Rollins had  made them jaded, too. Perhaps not as vengeful as me, but they wanted  what belonged to them as well. To help their families. We'd rob the  bank, get the last of the money Mr. Rollins owed us, and ride off into  the sunset. The banker would be out over two thousand dollars and taken  for it by three women. That would irritate him more than anything else  if he knew.

"I'm not changing my mind," Tara said.

She looked to Amanda. "Nor me. One last time, Maddie."

I closed my eyes for a moment, thought of my father and how Mr. Rollins  had destroyed him. I remembered watching the house go up in flames,  seeing everything we owned turned to ash. Yes, Mr. Rollins may have  gotten Daddy's land, but I'd get the money owed for it.

"One last time," I repeated.

I looked to Amanda, who nodded decisively. "I know what I need to do."

She took a deep breath, put her hand on top of mine, then turned and  walked down the boardwalk. Tara and I stood side by side and watched  her, nodding politely to those she passed with a serene smile, before  she went around the corner and out of sight.

I counted in my head the three minutes for Amanda to enter the bank and  gain the assistance of the manager, although it felt like an eternity.  It wasn't the heat making me sweat now. My heart was hammering in my  chest, like it had before the other robberies. I placed my hand on my  belly where it felt like butterflies were trying to escape. I doubted  true criminals felt like they were going to vomit before they committed  their crimes. This strange and dangerous path had begun when Mr. Rollins  had set his sights on my father's ranch.

When Daddy had rightfully refused the businessman's offer to buy the  property, Mr. Rollins had gone about more sinister ways of getting it.  He'd changed the payments owed the ranch to a price my father couldn't  afford and the bank-Mr. Rollins- took the property. My father hadn't  received a dime. It might be an unwise decision to steal the money that  was offered originally to my father, but it wasn't rash. I'd taken my  time to consider it, to plan it all. I'd learned I could be ruthless,  too. Mr. Rollins had to pay.

Resolved once again, I took a deep breath, thought back on our time  observing this bank. We'd discovered there were two employees, a teller  behind the counter and the bank manager who sat behind his desk across  the room, just like the other bank branches. Their schedule was more  precise than the train's that ran through town and the men seemed the  fussy sort who didn't like spontaneity. That boded well for us.

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