Fair Is the Rose

By: Meagan McKinney



Her gaze was riveted to his. She was as angry as he was. "You and I are alike, Cain. I understand you. We've both been hunted like animals. I don't deserve it. Maybe you don't either. So prove it. Take me to Camp Brown."

His grip on her tightened. "That husband of yours . . . is he the one hunting you or . . ." His words dwindled as he thought of all the possibilities.

"Go ahead, think the worst. Everyone else has." She didn't need to be reminded how bitterly true her statement was.

He searched her eyes, eyes that were crystalline blue in the brilliant sun. Slowly, he said, "No . . . you didn't kill him. You wouldn't be wearing those weeds if you'd killed him. You don't go mourning a husband you've murdered."

"No, you don't," she whispered, again feeling that troubled gratitude. She'd been running for three years. Macaulay Cain was the first person to find her innocent before proven guilty.


To Betsy McGovern and Tommy Makem for providing the beautiful songs, and for my dear friend Pat Warner, member of the Mississippi 3rd, who likes me even if I am a damned Yankee.

And lastly, for Damans Rowland, Associate Publisher of Dell Books, and for my agent, Pamela Gray Ahearn, who, like millions of other women, see the feminism, beauty, and strength in the romance novel (and refuse to take no for an answer!). Thank God for all of you.


The fearful struggle's ended now,

And peace smiles on our land.

And though we've yielded, We have proved ourselves a faithful band.

We fought them long, we fought them well

We fought them night and day.

And bravely struggled for our rights

While wearing of the Gray.

Confederate camp song

Chapter One

June 1875

It was a bad hanging.

And if there was one thing Doc Amoss hated, it was a bad hanging. He surveyed the seven white-draped bodies laid out in his small office. Even these men, the infamous Dover gang, had deserved the respect of a sharp snap to the neck and a swift journey to damnation. But this hanging hadn't been clean. At least, not at the end.

Doc shook his head, pushed up his spectacles, and went back to work. He'd spent all day with the Dover gang, first watching them be hanged, one by one, until their seven bodies dangled from their nooses, limp and solemn in the haze of dust kicked up by the horses. Afterward he'd helped cut them down and haul them to his office. The small town of Landen didn't have an undertaker, so it was Doc's job to ready them for burial. It'd taken all afternoon to wrap five of them. He was now on the sixth.

Doc leaned toward the spittoon, missed it, and left a pockmark in the dust on the naked floorboards. Outside, beneath the peeling sign Haircut, bath, and shave, 10 cents—Surgery done Fast he could see to the end of town where seven men dug seven graves in the anonymous brown sweep of eastern plain.

The shadows grew deep in his office. It was late. He pulled off the sixth man's boots and checked his mouth just in case the fellow had some ivory teeth the town could sell to pay for the hanging. Doc wrapped him, then crossed his name off the list.

Now there was no avoiding it. The last man had to be attended to. The seventh and worst.

Macaulay Cain. Just the mention of that name made a chill shiver down Doc's spine. He'd seen it on enough wanted posters to spell it backward and forward. He'd never wanted to mess with the likes of the notorious gunslinger. God and his sense of justice. Just when the hanging went bad, it went bad on Macaulay Cain.

Doc reluctantly looked over to the seventh white-draped figure. In all his days he'd never seen a man so difficult to put atop a horse and get a noose around his neck. Cain had required every one of the sheriff's deputies and even at the end, when his face was covered by the black bag and the men were ready to put the whip to his horse, Cain struggled and demanded that they wait for that telegram, the one he claimed was going to clear him.

The one that never came.

"Son of a bitch." Doc hated a bad hanging. It made a man feel right uncomfortable inside just thinking about the horse rearing and Macaulay Cain twisting in the wind, no broken neck to put him out of his misery.