Beautiful Elizabeth Cooper struggled to raise her siblings by herself after her mother's death. Abandoned by her reckless father years earlier she is distraught when he shows up unexpectedly. Shattering her world completely, he drags her from saloon to saloon until his luck runs out.
James Reese watched in disgust as the gambler offered to use his daughter as collateral for a poker game. Beth's blue eyes met his and he made a silent vow to protect her. Left with few choices, Beth puts her faith in a man as desperate and alone as she. On the run they find comfort and solace in each other's arms.
Beth quickly wiped the tears from her face with the back of her hand as she heard the feet pounding up the stairs, bringing her back to her stark reality. A feeling of dread filled her. She quickly glanced around the room, looking for a place to hide. Not finding one she dejectedly slid down into a corner. The door flung open.
"Beth!" Cooper bellowed. Then spotting her, he walked over, grabbed her arm and pulled her to her feet. “Go wash your face, you sniveling brat. There's someone I want you to meet and I want you to be nice."
Beth turned her head away from his foul, drunken breath. She definitely didn’t want to meet any of his friends. Left with no options, she went to the water basin and doused her face. She felt coldness creep into her soul. She carefully dried her face slowly trying to stall the inevitable.
Cooper had lost his patience with her again and grabbed her arm roughly, pulling her out of the room and down the stairs. Beth missed a step and stumbled. Cooper cruelly jerked her back to her feet as he made his way toward the table and the growing crowd of on-lookers.
Reese sucked in his breath when he saw her. She was beautiful. Her long blond hair was brushed and pleated into a single braid that hung down her back. Reese felt a sudden urge to undo her locks and run his hands through them. He heard Scranton’s evil laughter and forced himself to focus.
“Here she is," Cooper said proudly presenting her to Scranton. Scranton stood up and walked around her slowly, taking everything in. Her blue-green eyes were wide with fear as she glanced at the man appraising her and then to the jeering crowd around her. Her eyes finally fell on the tall man who was still standing against the wall behind Scranton’s now empty chair. He was watching her intently. Their eyes locked and she saw the compassion there along with something else; something deeper that she couldn’t name but that gave her hope.
Reese stared at her. He couldn't look anywhere else. He knew he should look away but he couldn’t. He was afraid she would disappear like a mirage. He glanced at Scranton and was again disgusted with himself. If anybody needed protecting it was her.