Jude froze right where she was. She recognized the voice. “Justice. I see you slithered your way inside.”
Fear for her girls, for Hughes…for herself had her almost quaking where she stood.
Both Hughes’s boys were watching the doors.
Justice’s boy was guarding the door to the cellar, just off the kitchen. He had put himself between Becky and any threat.
At seventeen, he was more of a real man than his father ever could be.
“I am aiming to make you pay for taking my boy from me.”
“Nonsense, your biggest issue with me is that I told you no. If I hadn’t, you never would have given those boys permission to torment my girls. We both know that.” She turned, and saw her nightmare right where he stood. Right there in the hall leading to the upstairs. It didn’t make a lick of sense to her. “How did you get inside?”
“Window on the second floor. The master’s bedroom. I know what you did in there.”
“What I did with my husband is no business of yours.” What was she supposed to do now? Her fingers tightened around the revolver Hughes had given her hours ago. Her hand covered her stomach for just one second.
They could have made a baby between them in that bed. Justice Wharton wasn’t going to be allowed to cheapen that.
Nor would he be allowed to take that from her. “You’d best get out of here. All I have to do is scream…”
“So he’s your husband now, is he?”
“Yes. He is.”
“What makes him so special over me?”
Jude just gawked. “You really have to ask? How about the fact that he didn’t have to force himself on a woman? That he didn’t see what your boys did to my girls—innocent girls, Justice—as just fine and acceptable.”
“They woulda done the right thing after. I done made them promise.”
“Are you kidding me? They broke one of my girls’ arms, Justice. How was that right? She wasn’t even there that day. And they hurt her.”
“A man has a right to protect his family.” He had the gun trained right on her. Jude forced herself not to panic.
Someone called her name. From nearby.
Janie, her sweet, sassy Janie, who was having a good time giving the preacher fits whenever she could.
Justice swung toward the door, that damned gun of his pointed toward her niece. Janie couldn’t see, there was no way she could even see the threat pointed right at her.
Not her girl. Not one of her girls, ever again.
Resolution filled her. Enough was enough. They had lived in fear of this man and his boys long enough.
She raised the revolver up between them. “And so does a woman.”
Jude did what she had to do.
And pulled the trigger.