I got my author copies last week and can’t wait to start giving them away. Just leave a comment and I’ll toss your name in the Stetson. Late tonight I’ll draw three names . . . Most of you know that Marrying the Major is Book #4 in the “Women of Swan’s Nest” series. It’s about Caroline and Bessie, so it’s a two-for-one romance. Here’s the back cover blurb:
He hired a governess, but what retired officer Tristan Willoughby Smith needs is a wife. Not on his behalf, but to protect little Dora and Freddie. When Caroline Bradley arrives at his Wyoming ranch, she seems perfectly suited–capable, efficient, intelligent . . . if a trifle too appealing.
Caroline knows what a real union of hearts should be, and the major’s polite, no-nonsense offer hardly qualifies. Still, she accepts for the children’s sake, little knowing the complications the marriage will bring to test her confidence and her faith. Yet in this unusual match, Caroline starts to see a glimmer of something strong and true–the makings of the family she never thought she’d find . . .
Here’s an excerpt . . .
This is from the middle of Chapter Two, and it’s one of my favorite scenes. Tristan is ferrying Caroline across a river on the back of Cairo, his prize Arabian stallion. Caroline is terrified of horses. To reassure her, he’s just bragged that Cairo would never disobey him. But that’s exactly Cairo does. He balks in the middle of the river, and Caroline takes a fall…
The water went over Caroline’s head with whoosh. She couldn’t see or breathe. She could only feel the sudden cold and the current grabbing at her skirt. The stallion was bucking and stomping. If she didn’t get out of the river, she’d be pulled downstream or trampled. She tried to stand but stumbled because of the weight of her clothing.
“Get back!” the Major shouted.
He had his hands full with the unruly horse. She didn’t know why it had bucked, but the medical case was slapping against its side. She had a horrible vision of it coming loose. Major Smith would lose the quinine, and she’d lose her only picture of Charles. Bracing against the sandy bottom, she pushed to her feet. She wanted to run for the shore, but if the case tore lose she’d go after it.
Cairo reared back and whinnied. She half expected Major Smith to land in the river with her, but he moved gracefully with the horse, aligning his body with the stallion’s neck and back. Behind her she heard Jon sloshing toward them on Grandma. Being caught between two horses terrified her more than drowning, so she hoisted her skirts and ran downriver.
She stumbled a dozen steps, tripped on her hem and went down. Rocks pressed into her knees and she cried out. She kept her head above water, but her skirt was tangled around her legs. Seemingly out of nowhere, male hands gripped her arms and lifted her from the current.
“Caroline.” She heard the major’s voice, the accent thick as he set her on her feet. “It’s all right. I’ve got you.”
She felt the strength of his arms and the sureness of his stance. As he steadied her, she wiped her eyes with her sleeve and became aware of his body shielding her from the current. She had no business noticing him in a personal way. She was merely an employee, a woman who was afraid of horses and had fallen in the river.
She pulled back from his grasp and staggered away. “I’m all right.”
He splashed closer, reaching for her. “Let me walk you to the shore.”
“No!” She didn’t want to feel his arm around her waist. “Go take care of your horse.”
“Jon has Cairo.”
She looked past him to the shore where Jon and Grandma were leading Cairo up the sandy bank. The black horse had calmed, but he still looked on edge . . . much like the major. He stepped closer to her, his hand extended as if he were giving her a peppermint. “Come now,” he said with authority. “There’s nothing to be afraid of.”
“Oh yes, there is!” She was afraid of him, afraid of her feelings because she couldn’t help but like this man. With malaria symptoms, he had no business jumping into the river to help her. He should have taken his horse to shore and let Jon come to her rescue. Instead he’d risked getting a chill. Even more revealing was the compassion in his eyes. He looked both sincere and commanding, a man of courage who understood fear. She could imagine soldiers following him into battle, trusting him to lead them to victory.
She trusted him, too. But she didn’t trust her feelings. How many times had she felt this spark of interest in a man only to have it dashed?