Category: Book Covers

New Released E-Book, THE PRINCESS AND THE WOLF, Excerpt

Howdy!

Yes, indeed, The Princess and the Wolf has just been released in e-book format.  Plus, it’s undergone a terrific job in the editing department.  But before I get into the excerpt for the new book, I wanted to send out a call to all of my former Warriorettes.  My newest book, Brave Wolf and the Lady, will be coming out within a few months.  Currently it is undergoing editing.  It’s exciting for me, because Brave Wolf and the Lady is not only a brand new book, it has a cameo appearance of two very dear characters from my first book, Lakota Surrender.  The hero of the new book is the son of those two main characters.  So if you were ever one of my Warriorettes, please do contact me at karenkay(dot)author(at)earthlink(dot)net.

Isn’t this an absolutely beautiful cover?  I love the pose.  I love the clothing.  I love the background.  It is my pleasure to show you this very newest cover — excerpt to follow.

I will be giving away a free copy of the book today, so please please sure to leave a comment — all you need to do to enter into the drawing.  All of our guidelines for give-aways apply — something I must say.

So here we go:  I’ll post the blurb, a few reviews, and then the excerpt.  Hope you will enjoy.

The Princess and the Wolf

by

Karen Kay

TWO HEARTS BETRAYED

Refusing to believe the rumors that the European prince she was forced to marry had died in a far-off land, the princess, Sierra, sets sail to America, bent on revenge and determined to learn the truth. Because she will require a scout to guide her through the wilderness, she calls in a favor from the man who had betrayed her long ago, the man she had once loved deeply and had hoped to wed, the noble Cheyenne scout, High Wolf.

Many years before, a European prince had invited High Wolf to travel an ocean and as a brother, to live as a member of the royal family. There High Wolf had fallen in love with the princess, Sierra. But instead of an engagement and the planned wedding, the princess had treacherously married his friend, the prince. Betrayed and broken-hearted, High Wolf sailed back to America, determined to forget the princess. But a promise given to her years earlier brings her back into his life, igniting a desire he must resist, for to surrender to her again is unthinkable.

Forced into one another’s company, with the threat of life or death around every corner, overcoming their prejudice might be their only means of survival. But can either of them trust in a love, once betrayed? Or will their past force them apart again, this time forever?…

This book has been previously published.

Warning: A sensuous romance that might fan the flames of desire. Be warned. You might fall in love all over again.

Reviews:

An adventure of the heart, this story will carry you to the heights of excitement as two old friends meet and the depths of despair when they acknowledge what they’ve lost.  Set in the days when the Missouri River was largely an unknown, untamed territory, the reader will thrill to the danger and joys the two share as they travel toward Fort Clark on their mission to learn the truth of Prince Alathom’s disappearance.

Highly recommended as a rewarding way to spend pleasant hours.  A trip back in time with descriptions so clear, you will feel as though you’ve been inside the homes and forts of the day;  A tale written by an author who knows her subject and writes from the heart.  Enjoy.

Anne K. Edwards

Review:

Karen Kay does a masterful job of weaving the past and the present together so that the two stories seem destined to connect.  The fierce passion and sensuality makes the story sparkle.  The characters dance off the page and come to life, remaining long after the end of the story.

Lori Soard, Reviewer

Review:

Karen Kay captures the hearts of her readers.  With beauty and elegance we become one with the Indian scout, with nature, with our senses.  We walk in their shoes, smell the damp leaves on the forest floor and visualize all the colors in a sunrise.  TheBestReviews.com

Review:

Karen Kay has a talent to pull you into the story and not let you go until it’s finished.  Even then, the story stays with you long after the last page.  High Wolf not only takes Princess Sierra on a journey, he takes the reader on one as well.  RomanceJunkies.com

Review:

The Princess and the Wolf gives readers a new thrill, taking one Princess and a Cheyenne brave, and turning what is forbidden into a fiery passion that was meant to be.  Writers and Readers Network.

 

Enjoy this excerpt from The Princess and the Wolf

“The housekeeper tells that tis well known the prince would divorce her, were he here,” said the kitchen maid.

“Aye, that he would,” replied the housemaid. “And good riddance, says I. It was she that drove him away. That she did.”

 

Gossip between servants at

Prince Alathom’s  Castle

 

“Do you wish anything else before we go ashore?”

“No, Maria,” answered Princess Sierra, watching from her perch high above the dock, as Governor Clark stepped from the carriage, accompanied by an Indian maiden. “I do not require anything else at the moment. You’ve done quite well, my friend, despite the demanding conditions of this vessel.” She gave Maria a brief smile. “Would you please find Mr. Dominic and inform him that I am ready to leave this ship?”

“Yes, Your Highness. At once. Do we go to greet Governor Clark, then?”

“I believe so,” said the princess. “And for this task, I will have need of you both to accompany me.”

“Yes, Your Highness,” Maria said, curtsying before she turned to do as bid.

Sierra smoothed a white-gloved hand over the blue and white muslin of her very full skirt, pulling the lace that bordered her walking dress into place. Straightening her shoulders, she settled her blue and white-lace mantle over the double bouffant of her sleeves, buttoning the mantle’s closure at the neck. Briefly, she touched her wide belt, which was made of the same light blue color as her dress, pulling it a little more tightly around her waist so as to accentuate its most tiny aspect. A white straw bonnet, adorned with ribbons of blue and tied at the neck, completed the image of the fashionable royal that she was.

Opening her blue and white parasol, Sierra narrowed her eyes, placing a hand gently over her forehead as though it were an extra shield from the sun. She frowned.

From her view of it, there seemed to be no sign of the man she had instructed Governor Clark to hire. Had she needlessly tortured herself over this first meeting with High Wolf?

Perhaps he hadn’t yet arrived.

Or maybe, she thought on a grimmer note, he wasn’t coming. Had he mayhap learned that it was she behind the request?

For a moment, she worried over the possibility. As absurd as it might appear, such a thing was possible: He might know of her coming. He’d always seemed to have ways of gleaning information about things—ways that she had never understood. Perhaps he had discovered her scheme well ahead of the fact.

At that thought, Sierra tried to swallow her disappointment.

It wasn’t that she was looking forward to seeing him again. No. It was only that he, and he alone, could lead her to Prince Alathom, and it was Prince Alathom she needed to find and challenge, Prince Alathom whom she would repay in kind…if need be…

Squaring her shoulders and setting her features into as delightful a smile as she could, Princess Sierra pulled unconsciously at her mantle, noticing as she did so that her fingers shook with the effort.

It was then that she caught sight of something in her peripheral vision…something familiar. She turned her head carefully to the left, her eyes colliding with and staring hard at a pair of dark eyes looking directly back at her.

Her stomach flipped over twice before it at last performed a dive toward her toes. She inhaled swiftly to try to quell the reaction.

It was he, High Wolf. He had come, after all.

As impossible as it might seem, she stared back at a face that she had once thought never to see again. Yet, there he was; there, across a very short distance.

And unable to curtail it, she was suddenly awash in nearly palpable relief.

Relief? Nonsense. It was probably more to the point to say that she was glad that her scheme now contained the element of possibility, the possibility of success.

But if he were to be caught looking up at her, she would be staring back down at him as well, almost as though she were hungry for the sight of him…although she corrected herself, this last thought was ridiculous.

Again, she reminded herself that he, as well as the prince, had betrayed her. In different ways, perhaps. But betrayal was certain treachery after all, regardless of the circumstances. And faith, once lost, could never be restored.

Still, despite the intervening years, an all too familiar pain shot through her, and without her conscious will, she found herself scrutinizing the man she had once thought herself to be in love with…a man who had left her for no more than three hundred gold dukaten.

He looked much the same as he had ten years ago, yet different. Whereas High Wolf had been little more than a boy then, he was now very much a man, and he looked bigger somehow, though he was still extraordinarily slim. Perhaps it was because his chest was wider, larger…or perhaps he was more muscular.

He looked…better, more handsome, more virile.

Sierra grimaced at her thoughts and decided to scrutinize something else less potent…his manner of dress, for instance…

Gone were the fashionable trousers and high leather boots that she remembered him wearing in the past; in their place were buckskin leggings, breechcloth and moccasins. Gone also were the carefully stitched linen shirt and cravat so precisely tied, supplanted now with a long buckskin shirt, fringed, with the bottom of it hanging down almost past his breechcloth. An ornament of what looked to be a concatenation of beads and bone, in the shape of a breastplate, hung down over his chest. It was a sight she had never beheld until this moment.

Instead of a hat, however, he now wore feathers on his head—or at least there was one feather sticking straight up behind him. And his hair…

Relegated to the past was the fashionable haircut she recalled so well, displaced now by long, black hair that hung well past his shoulders.

He looked…Indian, alien from all she had ever known and loved. Yet his countenance was, contrarily, as familiar to her as a well-rehearsed play.

And she wondered: Despite their past, would he help her?

Not if he knew her purpose.

Only too well, she recalled that High Wolf considered the prince to be more than a friend. To him, and perhaps rightly so, Prince Alathom was a brother, a brother in fact as well as in deed. Besides, High Wolf would hardly condone her murderous plan…a scheme she fully intended to execute if the prince refused to return to the Continent, whereupon he would take up his responsibilities.

Indeed, she would be satisfied.

Those at home thought she knew nothing of their wagging tongues; they believed their whispered insults were discreet. But Sierra did know. She did care. And he would pay.

Oh, yes, he would pay.

Which meant, she realized, that the real reason for her journey must remain a well-guarded secret; from Governor Clark, from her guides and especially from High Wolf.

She only wondered if she could successfully hide her motives from High Wolf. After all, as she had already surmised, High Wolf was an extremely perceptive man. Might he guess?

Well, it was up to her to keep her secret well hidden. She only hoped she was up to the task.

***

He stared at her as though he had come face-to-face with his worst nightmare—or maybe his best fantasy. Princess Sierra? Here? Now?

His heart skipped a beat, then picked up its pace, pounding onward in triple speed. High Wolf caught his breath before forcing himself to breathe in and out. In a daze, he stared up at her, feeling as though he were caught in an illusion.

Had she come for him? Had she traveled all this distance to reach out to him, realizing after all this time that she could not live without him, as she had once proclaimed?

Or was she a mere mirage, the same sort of image that haunted his dreams?

Without warning, the desire to run to her, to take her in his arms and embrace her, was almost more real than the solidness of the ground beneath him. Of its own will, the memory of the taste of her, the scent of her, the sweetness of her embrace, overwhelmed him.

And he knew he needed, he wanted to kiss her. Now. In truth, so strong was the desire, he had taken a few steps toward her before he became once more fully aware of himself, and stopped.

The prince. How could he have forgotten the prince—as well as her duplicity—so easily? Where was the prince?

Odd, he thought, how the mind could forget the pain, the anguish, the loss. For a moment, all had been gone, replaced by the simple joy of seeing her again. Odd, too, how his body was even now reacting, that most manly part of him pulsing with every pounding of his heart, remembering, anticipating…what could never be.

He groaned. He had to bring himself, his thoughts, his body under control, quickly.

Concentrate on her faithlessness, he cautioned himself. Hers and Prince Alathom’s.

He glanced to the side of her and all around her. Where was the prince?

And then, as though it came through the fog cluttering his mind, a thought came to him. Governor Clark had hired him, had told High Wolf that he was to escort and protect a royal party, one that was coming to the Americas for a wild-game hunt.

It was the prince and princess . It had to be.

Had the two of them asked for him, personally? For old time’s sake? Was that why Clark had sent for him?

Or was this mere coincidence?

Coincidence? He sneered. High Wolf knew there was no such thing.

Had the two of them no compassion? No pity?

Surely they were aware of what the mere act of seeing them again—together—would do to him.

Or did they think that they could renew friendship? That he would have forgotten?

Well, he had not forgotten; he could not.

Breathing in deeply, High Wolf calmed himself. He was letting his emotions take control of his mind, even of his body. It was possible, he conceded, that he was not thinking clearly, putting elements together that did not necessarily go together.

Besides, he didn’t have to take the job at hand. He had not pledged his word.

And it wouldn’t be as if he were deserting the prince and princess, either. After all, there were these two disreputable trappers that Clark had hired as well.

Wearily, High Wolf glanced at the two shabbily dressed men. Yes, let them have the assignment…while he, High Wolf, quietly disappeared…

Surely, that would be best. For indeed, if this were his initial reaction to the princess—and at this great a distance from her—what would be his fate if he were to witness her beauty closer to hand?

At that thought, a rush of desire swept through him that was as uncontrollable as it was unwelcome. In truth, so swift was his reaction, he rocked back on his feet.

The response shocked him as much as it excited him. And High Wolf knew he had best renew his intention to leave—quickly…

Yet he didn’t budge so much as an inch. In faith, he could not have turned away from her now had he been a saint. Not yet.

Contrarily, another part of him reasoned that little harm could come from feasting his sights upon her for a while longer. Perhaps the image gained could serve to fuel the fiber of his imagination in the lonely nights ahead of him.

Make no mistake, Princess Sierra had always been the most beautiful creature he had ever seen, and it appeared she had changed little, except to have blossomed. More curves, more womanly features.

As he stared, his heart warmed to his subject. Dark curls bounced around her face while her bonnet hid the rest of her coiffure. Oval face, high cheekbones, eyes that he knew were as green as a prairie in spring. Even from this distance, he could attest that her skin still glowed with health and vitality. It was one of the features he remembered most about her. Her skin had been luminous, clear; had shone with a radiance even under cover of darkness, as though she might be lit by a fire within.

How he had loved to run his hands over her face, her neck, those curves…

Cease this, he cautioned himself, letting out his breath.

Yet the mind was often a mysterious thing, and despite himself, his thoughts rambled on. At five foot four, she had always been a slender little thing. He recalled that he had once spanned her waist within the outstretched grip of both his hands. They had laughed about it.  All three of them. Himself, Prince Alathom and the princess.

Odd, how close the three of them had once been, so close they had shared most everything.

High Wolf sighed.

Perhaps it was the way of the world that some things—even good things—were destined to end. Maybe that was why one should reach out for all the happiness he could have, while it still lay within his grasp.

Taking a few steps away, High Wolf at last turned his back on the sight of her. Best to disappear now, as quickly as possible. For of one matter he was entirely certain: He would not escort the princess and the prince. Not now. Not ever.

He took a few steps away.

“High Wolf!”

His insides plummeted at the sound of her voice. Yet he remained steadfast in his decision and kept walking, ignoring the call.

“High Wolf, don’t go!”

Don’t listen to her, he counseled himself. Go now, before she has a chance to weave her spell around you. Go at once .

But even as he thought it, an odd music, a rhythm perchance, began to pound through his mind, reminding him of other places, other times…

 

 

 

Chapter 5

 

Step, sweep, sweep; up, up, back. Hands locked together, step apart, meet. Smile at her, she at him; step, sweep, sweep. Hands held, turn; up to the toes; down again. Shoulder to shoulder, change position. Step, sweep, sweep. Hands touching; smile…

 

High Wolf could practically hear the strains of the violins and cello in three-quarter beat. It had been a different time and place; a different environment. In truth, it had been like a different life.

A hand clapped him on the shoulder. “High Wolf?” It was a male voice.

Sighing deeply, High Wolf put the memory from him, while at the same time he glanced around behind him, casting a look over his shoulder, espying the well-dressed, yet massive gentleman who stood behind him. Pivoting slowly, he came to stare at the man, who was, perhaps, the tallest human being High Wolf had ever seen.

Silence reigned until at last the other man said, “Princess Sierra Morena requests that you await an audience with her.”

High Wolf squinted at this giant, rendering him with as condescending a look as he could muster, though inwardly an ugly emotion ripped at his innards. Aloud he asked, “Does she?”

“Yes, sir. If you will wait a moment.”

High Wolf turned aside. “But I won’t wait,” he said, feigning a foreign accent that was all too natural, at least for his own peace of mind. “Please give my regards to the princess.” He bowed slightly, more out of a long-ago habit than in deference, a habit, he realized, he hadn’t used in ten long years.

A hand came up to clasp his shoulder. “The princess wishes to speak to you now.”

High Wolf paused as he considered his options. He could leave. It was probably what he should do. After all, there was no man alive who could keep him here; not if High Wolf desired to walk away.

He cast another glance at his opponent. No, not even this big, brawny man could keep him if he truly wished to flee.

But did he?

Would she look different up close; would she be different? Would her marriage to the prince have matured her? Or would she still be the sweet, young girl he had once loved so very, very well?

High Wolf rocked back on his feet. He was caught. Truly caught. Not by his own honor, but by his curiosity.

Later, he would take his leave of this party, and in particular, of the princess. But not now.

No, for now he would wait. He would observe. And then he would go, quickly, and as silently as he had done ten years ago.

Inured to his fate, he gazed upward, watching the princess depart the steamship, scrutinizing her progress down the ramp as closely as if he were reading a track marked upon the earth. He caught her smile as she grinned at Governor Clark, saw her speak a few words to that gentleman, scolded himself for wishing he might be the man on the receiving end of her smile.

And then gradually, so very, very slowly, she turned toward him, raising her sights to meet his.

And High Wolf stared back, his gaze, for all that he was aware of her faults, still hungry for the sight of her. And for a moment, time distorted. There was no past, no present, no future. There was only she… and he, the rest of the world diminished, as though it were no more than their own personal backdrop.

He sighed, recalling too well his loss. And the magic of the moment faded.

In vain he awaited the shy downturn of her eyelashes as she stared at him, the flirtatious one he remembered so very well.

It never came.

No, the princess gazed back at him boldly, brazenly, and try as he might to find it, there was nothing coquettish about the look she gave him. In faith, if he were to examine her appearance at this moment, he would have to conclude that she was beautiful. Yes. Beautiful, but hard—as though time had extracted all the softness from her.

So, he thought, the princess, too, had changed in many more ways than those of a physical nature.

As he took note of her approach, time passed quickly, and yet in a way it seemed to drag.  Leisurely, he watched her, knowing that hidden deep within him, there was an impossible hope that perhaps this was all a mistake, a horrible ten-year-old mistake.

It was remarkable, he thought as his gaze drank in her beauty, how the princess could appear so severe, yet still innocent in countenance. As though she bore no shame, no regret; as though she had never been the cause of an injustice.

Saaaa. He used the Cheyenne expression which stood for many things, including astonishment. It was as though she might be the wounded party from all those years ago…not he.

High Wolf nodded a silent acknowledgment, even if the movement of his head was a slight one. Then, leaning his weight upon his rifle, he awaited the “angel in blue” as she approached.

***

“Ho’neoxhaa’eho’ese,” she pronounced his name in Cheyenne as soon as she stepped within a few feet of him. “It has been a long time.”

She did not offer her hand, and her words, softly spoken, cut through him, as though the sound of her voice were blazed in steel. Yet High Wolf simply nodded, trying to shake off the feeling of being ill-at-ease.

In contrast, she seemed all poise and assurance; she even smiled. However, he took careful note, no happiness reached those green eyes before she asked, “How have you been?”

“I am well,” he replied, his voice, usually full-bodied, no more than a dull monotone.

She seemed unaware of any problem with him, however, and replied, “That is good. That is good, indeed.”

“And you?” he inquired politely.

Again, she grinned up at him, before saying, “I am well, as you can see.”

High Wolf inclined his head toward her, catching her eye before he said, “And your husband?”

She flinched as though he might have dealt her a blow, and oddly, her face drained of color, her eyes becoming suddenly dull. Hurriedly, she glanced away.

Strange.

Frowning, High Wolf ventured further, “Is he in company with you?”

However, the princess did not deign to answer; her gaze looked instead out upon the dock as though it were of great interest—a dock that was streaming with people. “Mr. High Wolf,” she said at last, “over there, due west of us”—she nodded toward the spot—“there is a patch of level ground that looks fairly well deserted of people. I would very much like to take a turn in it, if you would be so kind as to accompany me.”

Take a turn. He hadn’t heard that phrase, hadn’t spoken that phrase in well over ten years. Hearing it again, unfortunately for him, had the effect of turning back time.

Politely, out of a habit from long ago, he bowed at the waist. “I would be happy to join you, Your Highness,” he said, “at some other time. But I am afraid that I have…other business that calls my attention at the moment.”

She acknowledged him with a delicate dip of her head. “I understand,” she said. “I am assuming this business relates to Governor Clark and his hiring you as a guide?”

High Wolf said nothing in reply.

“And I am sure you have already surmised that I am to be the party you are to accompany into the interior.”

He blinked at her, his only acknowledgement.

“And you are considering declining, now that you know more of the facts?” She might have asked it as such, but he knew her words were no question.

He shrugged, saying, “As you say.”

“Very well,” she acknowledged, “although I find it monstrous ill that you can turn so easily away from a promise.”

He raised an eyebrow.

“For you see,” she continued, “I am calling in a favor you once granted me. A favor, you had once said, that would send you to me in a moment of distress. If I remember correctly”—she gave him a sly look—“you vowed to come to my aid if I did no more than call upon you.”

He didn’t blink—not even a single eyelash—as he countered, “All such promises came to nothing, Your Highness, on the day you became Prince Alathom’s wife, by the very nature of that act.”

When she frowned, he went on to observe, “Did you not vow to forsake all others? That would include me, would it not?”

“Perhaps,” she said, then grinned up at him, while High Wolf suddenly found himself at odds, disliking her, while all the while longing to take her in his arms. Instead of doing either, however, he stepped back, away from her.

But she continued, “If I remember correctly, there were no restraints upon your favor when you made the vow, although I do admit it was a long time ago. You merely said, ‘Ask, and I will come.’” She smiled at him flirtatiously. “Perhaps your favors expire with time if not used?”

He shrugged off the insult. “It was the heartfelt promise of a boy from long ago. You have a husband now to attend to your needs.”

“But that is precisely the reason for my visit, Mr. High Wolf,” she said, her expression suddenly modest. “For you see, to all the world, I no longer have a husband.”

High Wolf went very still, his outward demeanor showing little of his agitation. Instead he watched her watching him; saw her scrutinize him, her glance perhaps hoping to find some weakness in him. But High Wolf was too well versed in the ways of a scout, and much too observant to be affected by such an overt contemplation, and with ease, he carefully hid the sudden quickening of his heart.

But she was continuing to speak, and said, “Now, please, Mr. High Wolf, let us take that turn.” And sweeping her skirts with a grand gesture, she stepped toward the place she had earlier indicated, though shortly she turned back. “Mr. Dominic,” she called over her shoulder, “please inform Governor Clark that I will join him soon. I shall be only a moment.”

“Yes, Your Highness,” said Mr. Dominic, and bowing, turned away.

Slowly, Princess Sierra pivoted around, her gaze capturing his . “Now, Mr. High Wolf,” she said, “shall we?”

And High Wolf, bound by an imprudent oath from his past, had no other option—at least none at the moment—but to hear her out. And though he wished himself somewhere else—anywhere else—he followed her lead.

***

Oh, how she wished the past were different. Oh, how she longed to turn back time. But events were as they were, and not even God in His heaven could change the history of what had come to be.

Princess Sierra sighed and, as she stepped lightly toward the spot she had earlier indicated, she wondered what she could say to this man that would sway him to her cause, trying to recall her well-rehearsed speech.

It was one thing to determine and practice such words of favor in the privacy of one’s quarters, quite another to confront the actual man. Plus she hadn’t counted on the increased rate of her heartbeat, or on the weakness which came over her limbs. And despite herself, Princess Sierra was experiencing a desire to throw herself into High Wolf’s arms and beg for his mercy.

She snorted instead. She? Beg this man?

Never.

Still, she must do something to solicit his help, and all without allowing him to perceive her real purpose. Could she do it? Could she fool this very insightful man?

Oh, if only life could be different. For within her, and increasing with every minute, was a sensation of old, a desire to purge herself of her troubles—as she had often done with this man in their not-too-distant past.

But she could hardly afford such a luxury and remain true to herself. Indeed, not only must she continue to be steadfast, she daren’t forget that this was the same man whose treachery had broken her heart…

Sierra inhaled deeply once again. There were some actions, that once were done, could never be taken back. And make no mistake, this man’s offense had been such a one.

Well, so be it. Squaring her shoulders, the princess turned to face him and said, “The prince is dead.”

High Wolf frowned. “Dead?”

“Yes, apparently so.”

“Apparently?” As High Wolf’s frown deepened, his stare became piercing.

Ignoring the look, she continued, “Prince Alathom was not home when the event which took his life happened, as you might already know.”

High Wolf raised one single eyebrow. He repeated, “Already know?”

“Yes,” she stated it as though it were a certainty. “It was a hunting accident—here in the Americas. We received word of the incident only a few months ago.”

“We?”

“Our families.” Sierra swallowed, and inhaling a deep breath, took a plunge, when perhaps it might have been more prudent to tread water. However, she continued, “Come now, High Wolf, I’m certain that I’m not telling you anything of which you are not already aware.”

If he detected the note of censure in her voice, he overlooked it, for all he said was, “Why would you think that?”

How dare he pretend to be innocent? Did he mean to insult her intelligence? Did he honestly think she would not be able to piece together the facts?

Well, perhaps it was time to show him that she could play any game that he chose to play. And, determined to put him in his place, she began, “I would think that, because the accident that took his life happened here…in the West, you would be well versed in it.”

High Wolf narrowed a glance at her. “Meaning that you think he and I were together when it happened?”

“If the shoe fits… ”

“And you think I was responsible for his death? Is this what you’re insinuating?”

“No,” she denied, momentarily thrown off guard by his question. In vain, she tried to ignore the confusion his question brought her, for despite her anger at him, she never would have thought this man responsible for the prince’s accident. He and Alathom were simply too close.

No, the truth was that she simply did not believe such an accident had taken place.  If she were correct—and there was no reason to assume she was not—the prince and High Wolf had conceived the deceit together, had planned it as deceptively as they had once planned another escape.

But she could not very well tell him that.

However, he was frowning at her, staring at her in a way that brought her to understand that he was reading every nuance of her reaction…something he was quite adept at, and a little too breathlessly, she continued, “I… I would not accuse you of having caused his death. I know you would never do anything to intentionally harm the prince. It’s only that…”

“You think I should have died in his place?”

“No.”

“Then what?”

Then why, when you had a reason to do so , didn’t you come back to me?

No, that wasn’t right. She couldn’t have actually thought that—not about this man.

High Wolf, however, as though ill-at-ease, crossed his arms over his chest before repeating, “Then what? What are you accusing me of?”

“I’m not accusing you of anything except perhaps being more friendly toward the prince than you have been to me.”

This last appeared to baffle High Wolf, and even he could not subdue the look of bewilderment that settled across his features. In truth, so honest was his perplexity, had she not known better, she would almost have believed in his innocence—almost…

And she said, “Come now, High Wolf, we were always friends, weren’t we? You, the prince and myself?”

High Wolf visibly stiffened, though all he said was, “We were—once.”

“And so all I am asking of you is that you give me as much deference as you would, or more correctly, as you have, the prince. I would like to go into the interior for a hunt, perhaps to ease my mind from my ‘loss.’” She emphasized the word. “I would request that you guide me there.”

Sierra glanced up to see, not the countenance of a man who had been caught out in a lie and was quietly ready to admit it, but rather she was met with indisputable contempt.

Oddly, it was this look that gave her courage. For it was she, not he, who had a right to indignation.

He stirred, moving away from her, and said, “I will not lead you into the interior of this country.”

Instantly, a feeling of disdain swept over her, returning to her a presence of mind. And she said, “Stay where you are. I have not yet given you permission to leave.”

He stilled. “No, you haven’t, Your Highness,” he said, pivoting around and coming face-to-face with her once more. However, with a leer on his countenance, he added, “But perhaps you should look around you.”

In defiance, she kept her glance glued to him.

“And maybe, if you did so, you might examine your environment even more carefully.”

Sierra stared straight ahead, still training her gaze on him and him alone.

He continued, “For, Your Highness, if you were to do this simple act, you might discover that you are no longer in Europe. Now look at me closely.”

“I already am.”

“More closely than even this.”

She blew out her breath, refusing to do as he bid, and glanced away from him instead.

But if her reaction bothered him, he seemed not to show it. Indeed, he said, “Do you see that I am not one of your subjects?”

Even as he uttered the words, the sneer in his tone, the curtness of his very manner, could not have been mistaken for anything other than what it was: disrespect. In response, her chin lifted high into the air, and she declared, “One does not need to be a subject of a particular country in order to exhibit proper manners,” she scolded. “And there is nothing that I have said that gives you leave to mock me. Indeed, I ask a simple thing.”

If she had hoped to make him more propitious, she had certainly failed, for within his glance was pure defiance, and he said, “True, the request is simple, but I suspect that the entreaty which is so sweetly given is yet filled with venom.”

She sucked in her breath.

He continued, “I am not for hire by you.” He spun about, ready to leave.

Goodness! The man hated her.

For an instant, the realization caused her to sway from where she stood. And for another heartfelt moment, she felt as though every single drop of blood in her body had become frozen.

She had certainly not anticipated this man’s hatred. After all, by what right did he dare show her ridicule? She, and she alone , possessed leave to seek revenge.

Yet he was retreating from her, without her leave, without her approval and with as much ill-will as she had ever witnessed. Worse, his departure was not something she would or could permit.

Reaching forward, she grabbed hold of his sleeve, the rough leather of his shirt feeling oddly soft against her fingers, a softness, she noted, that was not reflected in his countenance, or in any other part of him. She said, “What did I ever do to you that you feel compelled to treat me like this?”

He stopped, he stiffened, he inhaled slowly before he at last rocked back on his feet. Then swallowing hard, as though he were not as confident as he might like her to believe, he shut his eyes, letting go of his breath.

It was a show of minor weakness, but it was also the advantage she wanted, and she said, “You, sir, deserted me. It was not the other way around.”

“Was it not?”

“What do you mean?”

He let out his breath. “Try to understand, Your Highness, I am a different man now than I was when you once knew me. Ten years can bring about a great deal of change in a person.”

“I see,” she said dumbly, as yet another thought struck her. Aloud, she asked, “Are you married?”

She held her breath. It was a reasonable question, given their situation. It was also one she should have asked herself before now, if only to soften any surprise. After all, High Wolf was nothing if not a handsome and virile man. And being such, he was probably much sought after as a husband.

Her stomach dropped, and unreasonably, she felt defeated.

He questioned, “Does it matter if I am?”

“Of course not. Not to me.”

“Then why would you ask, I wonder?”

She shrugged. “Curiosity. Is this, then—your marriage—the reason why you will not guide me?”

“Could be.”

“I see.” She gulped in air. “You could bring her with you. I would not mind.”

It was a lie; even as she spoke the words, Sierra knew she would rather die than meet this man’s wife. It was an odd thought to become aware of, and she trembled with realization: Did she still care about this man? Impossible. It simply could not be.

She glanced up to catch him grinning at her. But his good humor was far from a pretty sight. In truth, his grin was simply a movement of his lips, with no inclination to mirth whatsoever, a mere shadow of what she remembered.

However, he was speaking, and he said, “Well, I, for one, if I did have a wife, would mind bringing her along, although I realize you might not share my scruples on that.”

If he had a wife…?

“No, Princess,” he continued, “you are wasting your precious time on me. Go home. Leave me to my own thoughts, and let me grieve for my friend in private, for I meant what I said. I will not lead you anywhere in this country.”

The words had no more left his mouth than he had spun about and was doing exactly as he had threatened: He left, without so much as a by-your-leave, and with no deference to her whatsoever.

But this time Princess Sierra barely noticed. In truth, she was frowning, thinking…

Had High Wolf always harbored such antagonism? And if he had, how had she missed seeing it until now?

Sierra closed her eyes, inhaling and exhaling slowly. Well, this was a fine mess. Should she have confided her own doubts about the prince? That he might still be alive? And if he were, that she wanted nothing more than to have a council with him? Would that have persuaded High Wolf to her cause?

No, she had already made up her mind on this account, and she was certain: High Wolf and the prince were in one another’s confidence, as they had always been. And little good would come from her pleading. But, dear Lord, what was she to do now?

The Princess and the Wolf

https://www.amazon.com/Princess-Wolf-Clan-Book-ebook/dp/B079QPW33V/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1519095306&sr=8-2&keywords=the+princess+and+the+wolf+by+karen+kayhe&tag=pettpist-20 Princess and the Wolf

https://www.amazon.com/Princess-Wolf-Clan-Book-ebook/dp/B079QPW33V/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1519095306&sr=8-2&keywords=the+princess+and+the+wolf+by+karen+kay&tag=pettpist-20

 

 

 

Updated: February 19, 2018 — 10:04 pm

Elevators – History and Trivia

Hi all, Winnie Griggs here. In December, my book Once Upon A Texas Christmas will release. The story features a hero and heroine who have been asked to team up (much to the hero’s chagrin) to renovate an old hotel building. One of the things I wanted them to include as part of the renovation was an elevator. And this, of course, led me down a rabbit hole of research into what elevators were like during this period of time. So today I thought I’d share a little bit of what I learned.

First some history:

  • While the concept of lifting heavy objects is older than the pyramids themselves, it was in 236 BC that Archimedes, a Greek mathematician, invented the first elevator that was based on ropes, wrenches and weights. His concepts became the foundation for all elevators going forward.
  • One of my favorite and unexpected bits of elevator trivia – In 1203 the Abby of Mont St Michel installed a treadmill powered hoisting elevator. Most sources say prisoners were employed to man the treadmill. But at least one source noted that monkeys were employed as well. Whether true or not, isn’t it fun to imagine what that would have looked like?
  • It was in 1743 that one of the first elevators designed specifically for human passengers, a counterweight lift, was installed in King Louis XV’s villa at Versailles, France.
  • In 1852, while working in a New York bedstead factory, Elisha Otis saw a problem he needed to fix. Workers there were reluctant to use the hoists that were required to lift the heavy equipment to the upper floors. They were afraid the cable would break and crash to the ground causing serious injury or worse. Elisha rose to the challenge and he designed and created the first elevator safety braking device. It was this invention that revolutionized elevator design and paved the way for commercial passenger elevators.

    Elisha Otis

  • In 1854 Elisha Otis introduced another safety device, an elevator cabin that featured a self-locking door gear, designed to protect occupants from falling out of the elevator. 32 years later inventor Alexander Miles patented an automatic door system for the elevator.
  • Elisha Otis died from diphtheria in 1861, he was only 49. But his two sons took over the company, turning it into an international giant. Over the next several years they installed elevators in such prestigious buildings as the Eiffel Tower, the Washington Monument and the 60 story Woolworth Building which was the world’s tallest building at the time. The Otis Elevator Company is still the world’s largest vertical transportation manufacturer today (it includes escalators as well as elevators).

Trivia and fun facts:

  • There are currently over 700,000 elevators in the US. But as of 2008, Italy holds the record for the country with the most elevators installed – approximately 850,000.
  • Statistically, elevators are the safest way to travel. And they are 20 times safer than escalators.
  • The reason most elevators have mirrors is to make them seem larger in order to help people who suffer from claustrophobia.
  • Music was first introduced in elevators in the 1920s. It was hoped that this would calm folks who might be anxious about riding in elevators for the first time.
  • Betty Oliver was an elevator operator in the Empire State Building who was on duty on July 28, 1945 when a plane crashed into the building. She was injured and when rescuers subsequently tried to lower her the elevator cable broke, plummeting her 75 stories down. Miraculously she survived the fall. She still holds the record for being the longest elevator fall survivor.
  • Over the course of three days, elevators carry the equivalent of the world’s total population.

So there’s a quick overview of some of the info I gathered in my research.  What do you think? Did any of the info surprise you? Do you have any fun stories of your own to share related to elevators?

Leave a comment to be entered into a drawing for an advanced copy of my December release, Once Upon A Texas Christmas.

ONCE UPON A TEXAS CHRISTMAS

Partners for the Holidays 

Abigail Fulton is determined to find independence in Turnabout, Texas—and becoming manager of the local hotel could be the solution. But first, she must work with Seth Reynolds to renovate the property by Christmas—and convince him she’s perfect for the job. If only he hadn’t already promised the position to someone else…

Ever since his troubled childhood, Seth yearns to prove himself. And this hotel is his best chance. But what does someone like Abigail know about decor and furnishings? Yet the closer the holiday deadline gets, the more he appreciates her abilities and her kindness. His business ambitions require denying Abigail’s dearest wish, but can they put old dreams aside for a greater gift—love and family?

Preorder Link

 

Updated: October 10, 2017 — 2:45 pm

SOARING EAGLE’S EMBRACE, Excerpt & Free Give-Away

Howdy!

WHITE EAGLE’S TOUCH — one of my best selling books — is going to be — sometime this week — released by Amazon in e-book format.  And although we authors might never admit to having a favorite book,  well…gotta say that this book is one of my favorites.  So, I thought I’d tell you a little of the background that went in to the making of that book.

I love this cover by the way.

WHITE EAGLE’S TOUCH starts with my love of a rather spoiled, head-strong heroine — one who is really quite soft-hearted, but for reasons explained in the book, she harbors opinions that are far from flattering.  In the story, the heroine, Katrina, is blond-haired, stubborn, almost out of funds and is demanding her inheritance in order that she might marry into royalty.  She has also grown up without ever knowing her parents — who perished out West — or her uncle, who holds the purse-strings to her inheritance.

In other words, she has some reason to be spoiled, because she’s grown up without love — with a succession of nannies.

There are problems — mainly that her uncle will not release her funds until she comes West and parades her fiance in front of him for his approval.  I must admit that it really is a lot to ask of a young woman who has known only the comforts of New York City — still it was rather fun to play around with her outrage.

Of course her uncle doesn’t show up at the scheduled rendezvous — he sends his friend — who is almost like a son to him — White Eagle — to bring her to him.

Of course the story goes on from there — spoiled, rich-girl meets handsome, yet determined young Indian warrior.

Now, the truth of the matter is that the character of Katrina was patterned after my daughter, Trina, who is definitely not blond.  Not that Trina is spoiled, but at the writing of this story, Trina was a teenager — about nineteen, I believe — and she definitely had her likes and dislikes.  Off to the side here is a picture of Trina with her daughter and my granddaughter, Lila.  But patterning the heroine after my daughter really gave me a deeper understanding of my character, Katrina’s, personality — it also helped me to love this character, even when she is at her wit’s end.

In writing this book, I often had pictures of clothing and what the heroine might have looked like at that time.  Off to the left here is a picture of that period’s clothing.  I love this clothing, I must admit and sometimes wish we could go back to an age where women looked so very feminine.  Now this picture to the left really — in my mind — has the look of my heroine at this time.  A little bored, a little spoiled, always well dressed and trying to do the right thing — although in the West, my heroine’s efforts are sometimes clumsy and humorous — as she tries to “fit in.”

As for the hero, another one of my loves — I’ve always held a passion for a hero who brooks no argument, yet who is kind and generous — and who is waiting patiently for the heroine to come to her senses.

There is one scene in this book that I particularly like.  It was a scene where the hero, along with his friend, concoct a scheme to send Katrina’s fiance packing.  At the writing of this book, I had just the previous year, married my husband, Paul.  When I married Paul, however, I also discovered that he was extremely close to his brother, Bob — this picture to the right is of Bob and Paul — Paul is the one sitting down.  But this particular scene was about these two fellows and what they would do if they were there to rid themselves of this very unwanted person, and send him packing for home.

Interestingly, that “friend” of White Eagle is Night Thunder who has a book of his own — next in this series.

To end I thought I’d show you a picture of the original cover for WHITE EAGLE’S TOUCH.  The reason I have to show you is that this cover is also one of my most favorite covers.

WHITE EAGLE’S TOUCH

Excerpt

By Karen Kay

 

It took the Indians less than an hour to fabricate the boat, it being scantily constructed of several buffalo hides stretched over a crude framework of willow branches, the willow being the closest wood to hand. A paddle had been made from a few tree limbs, too, and within little time, Katrina observed many of their party’s supplies neatly stowed within the bull boat, although Katrina took note that it was only the marquess’s things.

White Eagle motioned the marquess forward just as Katrina began to set foot into the boat. But White Eagle motioned her away, despite her protest, making signals to his friends to bring forward the marquess…and his dogs. White Eagle turned to Katrina. “You will ride in the wagon across the river.”

“But I don’t wish to wet my dress, and I might if I don’t…”

White Eagle looked sternly at her, and she fell silent, as he clearly had meant her to. She watched as the marquess sauntered toward them.

“Ah, finally,” the marquess said to White Eagle as he stepped into the boat, “you savages are recognizing your betters. It is about time.”

“Humph!” was the guttural response from White Eagle as he motioned to his friends, and, at a signal, the marquess’s hounds joined him in the crude structure.

White Eagle beckoned to Good Dancer to come forward, and after some counseling, Good Dancer strode toward the water, taking the rope of the boat in his hand and leading the craft into the water.

He began to swim ahead of the boat, tugging the craft out into the swirling currents.
No sooner had the marquess set out in the boat, when White Eagle directed both Katrina and Rebecca into the wagon.

The women seated themselves and immediately, upon doing so, the marquess’s two men—who had been driving the wagon—started the horses forward, into the swift-rushing currents. This being done, White Eagle and Night Thunder took hold of the rest of the horses and began guiding those animals, too, across the water.

No one appeared to notice the bull boat being led farther and farther downstream, away from the main party; not even the marquess, who, it would seem, was busily engaged in gazing at the sky and sipping the wine he had managed to bring with him.

Trouble hit without warning. One of the ponies pulling the wagon stepped into a pool of quicksand and jerked on his bridle, unseating the drivers and shooting them forward. The horse next to it reared, becoming entrenched, itself, in the mire and only the fast action of the two drivers saved the wagon from the same fate. The men righted themselves and whipped at the ponies, cursing them in a more colorful language than Katrina would have liked to hear, but the driver’s efforts were to no avail; the poor ponies could not extricate themselves, not with their burdens of bridle and harness.

One of the horses tried to rear again, its action tilting the wagon off kilter. Off slid the marquess’s baggage and particulars as well as her Saratoga, all tossed into the sandy murk of the quicksand and, had the two women not been holding on to their seats, they would have been flung overboard, too.

Katrina screamed; Rebecca, also.

The two women held onto one another as readily as they did to the wagon, and Katrina, as the wagon sank deeper and deeper, decided it would be better to jump for freedom, rather than sink into the muck of the sand.

“We’re going to jump off this wagon,” she yelled above the noise of the ponies and drivers’ cursing.

“I can’t,” came Rebecca’s reply. “I’m afraid.”

Katrina took her maid’s hand. “We’ll do it together, all right? It’s better than staying here. Now, ready, one, two, three.”

The two of them jumped, landing in the sandy marsh instead of sanctuary, their feet sinking quickly into the wash.

Both women shrieked.

Suddenly it was over. Strong hands caught hold of Katrina and pulled her out, bringing her up and onto a horse.

Barely able to hold on to the pony, she looked up into White Eagle’s face. She didn’t say a word, nor did he, as he nestled her against him.

“Rebecca…is she…?”

“She is fine. My friend has her. Hold on to me,” he said, and as soon as he ensured she had a firm grip upon him, White Eagle whipped the pony into the fury of the river, forcing the animal to swim against the current and, it would seem, against all odds.

Onward, across the river, defying the swirling water and eddies, they swam, the pony’s body, except for his head, completely submerged.

The currents unseated them, and White Eagle barely held on to the pony by its tail, though he never took one arm from around her.

Soon, the other shoreline beckoned, and, within moments, the pony leapt to its feet, White Eagle able to do the same almost as quickly.

But he didn’t waste any time. “Wait here,” was the only instruction he gave her as he spun back toward his pony, the animal heaving with exhaustion. Still, White Eagle jumped back onto his mount and guided it once more into the water, Katrina watching him cross over, to the other side.

Good Dancer and Night Thunder had already rushed to the wagon, Night Thunder having deposited Rebecca safely on solid ground much as White Eagle had done with Katrina but, rather than chance the danger of the river, Night Thunder had settled Rebecca upon the safety of the eastern shore of the river, the opposite shore from where Katrina now stood.
Katrina looked around her to see if she could find any sign of the bull boat, but there was nothing to be found; as best she could tell, the marquess had not landed upon this same shoreline.

Yet there stood Good Dancer, trying to extricate the wagon. And he had been the one leading the bull boat. Where were the Englishman and his dogs? Had they been set adrift?

Far from being alarming, the thought was…amusing.

Katrina returned her attention to the ponies and the wagon.

It took the labors of all three Indians and the marquess’s two men finally to extricate the animals from the quicksand.

But they did it at last, with the least possible damage to the wagon, the ponies or the men…although much of the marquess’s clothing sank further and further into the sandy wallow.

The Indians and the two servants sprawled for the moment upon the sandy shore…but on the opposite side of the river. And no one seemed in any hurry to see to the marquess and his concerns, wherever he was.

Almost an hour passed, an hour during which the Indians sat up and smoked, working over something, while the white men rested. Katrina had tried to communicate to them all by shouting across the distance of the river. But it was almost impossible—nothing could be heard over the noise of the river. The most she learned was that Rebecca remained unhurt.

Finally, the Indians arose; to go in search of the marquess, she supposed.

More time passed, White Eagle no longer within sight, and Katrina’s clothes had almost dried upon her by the time the Indians returned, the marquess and his dogs trailing behind them. But what had happened to the marquess? He stood drenched from head to foot, while the Indians, in contrast, remained amazingly dry.

And then she saw that White Eagle did not return with the others.

“Where is White Eagle?” Katrina yelled across the stream, but no one could hear her.
She tried again, “Has something happened to White Eagle?”

Panic rose up within her. Surely, he wasn’t hurt, was he?

Without realizing what she did, she started toward the river, more willing to face it than remain in ignorance. She had no more than stepped foot in the water when from behind her, came a voice, saying, “Stay here.”

She recognized that baritone timbre and she turned.

“White Eagle,” she breathed out in relief, “you are all right.”

He nodded. “I am here. I am unhurt.”

“And the others?”

“They are fine.”

“But what are they doing over there, on the opposite shore? And why aren’t they crossing the river?”

“They are not all coming.”

“What? Not coming?”

“The Englishman refuses to travel any further.” White Eagle smiled slightly. “He said something about the expense of his suits and his silks and not liking all this adventure. They are turning back.”

“I see. I’m not surprised.” She paused, a thought occurring to her. “Did the marquess mention how he intended to pay for his stay upon returning to Fort Union?”

White Eagle shrugged.

“And what about Rebecca? Why is she still over there? When will you and the other guides be bringing her across the river?”

White Eagle looked off in the distance, avoiding Katrina’s eyes. He said, “Your friend will be going back to the fort, too.”
“No!” Katrina responded at once. “You can’t, she can’t. She has no one to watch over her and protect her there. Either I must go with her or she must be brought to me.”

“Night Thunder has promised to keep her safe.”

“Night Thunder? But he—”

“He will guard her and see to her needs.”

“But—”

“Someone must go with the Englishmen and guide them back to the fort. They are as helpless as newborn babes.”

“But what has that to do with Rebecca? She must stay with me. I would worry about her otherwise, and—”

“Have you not noticed the looks shared between my friend and yours? It is better they stay together. Do not worry. Night Thunder will be with her. This I can promise you.”

“Do you? I still don’t like this, and what do you mean by the looks shared between them? I—”

“It has been decided.”

“Well, you can un-decide it.”

White Eagle, his lips turning up into a grin, seemed to be amused by Katrina’s determination. “Do you worry about a chaperon? Is that what bothers you? Do not. Good Dancer and his wife will join us as soon as the others have started back to the fort.” White Eagle crossed his arms over his chest. “Do you think I would take you on this long trip without another female companion? And with us as yet unmarried?”

“As yet?”

“Humph,” was all the answer she received from this man.

“Perhaps it is for the best.” Katrina looked away from White Eagle, glancing out across the river. “This trail could well prove dangerous, and I wouldn’t want Rebecca risking her life unnecessarily. So mayhap you are correct in your judgment.”

“Humph,” he uttered again, and though she was fast beginning to tire of this standard response from him, she said nothing about it, gazing instead toward Rebecca and calling out, “I will miss you.”

Katrina waved, and Rebecca returned the gesture.

“I will miss you too,” Rebecca cried back. “If I could, I would be with you.”

Katrina smiled and mouthed the words, “I know,” and, turning about, she began to follow White Eagle up the steep incline, to the bluff just above the river.

They were dodging stickers and thorny plants when she heard White Eagle say, in a rather offhand manner, “Did I mention to you that your Englishman agreed, giving me his word of honor, to end your engagement and promised not to cause you any further trouble over this?”

Katrina could barely believe that she was hearing correctly. She opened her mouth to say “No, you did not,” but nothing issued forth. And so she did the only thing afforded her in her situation.

She stared at his back as he moved ahead of her, simply stared…

WHITE EAGLE’S TOUCH

by

Karen Kay

Well, that’s all for today.

Do come on in and leave a comment.  That’s all you have to do to enter into the contest.  And of course the Giveaway Guidelines all apply.  Remember to check back tomorrow to see if you are the winner.

 

 

Updated: June 5, 2017 — 12:43 pm

LOVING THE TEXAS LAWMAN– SNEAK PEEK by Charlene Sands

Today I’m super excited to share with you the first scene in my upcoming story.. LOVING THE TEXAS LAWMAN!  It’s book 2 of the Forever Texan Series, but can certainly be ready as a stand alone.   Here’s a sneak peek and keep on reading for the giveaway!

 

Gravel crunched under Sheriff Jack Walker’s boots as he exited his patrol car and headed for the cherry red sports car parked alongside the road just outside of Hope Wells. The Texas night sky twinkled above with bright stars, but on the ground his flashlight was his guide. Years of wearing a badge made him ready for anything and he knew better than to think he’d find a driver in that car, not with Wishing Wells, the town’s natural flowing hot pool just fifty feet away. Lovers and others often frequented the waters past closing time, past curfew, sometimes breaking other Texas statutes as well. His mouth cocked up at the notion. He’d broken a law or two at the wells in his younger days. But Jack didn’t rightly recognize the car and that put him on alert.

He crossed the road where gravel became wildflowers and then headed down the familiar path. As he came upon the gate, the chain link didn’t appear to be jimmied, but that didn’t mean much since the gate was more than climbable. There’d never been a need to secure Wishing Wells with anything more than a strong link fence, Hope Wells being a peaceable town for the most part.

The honeyed sweet scent of star jasmine flavored the air as he drew closer. His ears perked at a disturbance in the wells, a quiet swishing that only occurred when someone was upsetting the soothing waters.

“Who’s there? You’re trespassing at this hour. This is Sheriff Jack Walker.” Giving fair enough warning for a trespasser, he climbed over the gate. He hoped like hell he wouldn’t find two lovers going at it hot and heavy.

His flashlight illuminated the springs with a blast of brightness. Nope not two lovers at all, but one scantily clad woman.

A woman he recognized.

His eyes burned hot and his senses blurred.

He shined the light just below the soulful, baby blue eyes of the trespasser.

Damn.

Jillian Lane.                                                                                                                                                                     

What was she doing here? He didn’t think he’d ever see her again. It’d been years since Jillian had washed her hands of Hope Wells… and of him. He was over her, but cool and casual wasn’t what pounded in his chest now. Instant disappointment at his reaction to her sent him back eleven years.

“Hello, Jack.”

Her soft sultry voice filled him up with memories. “I see you’re still breaking laws, Jillian.”

A smile surfaced and the baby blues that had once done incredible things to him, seemed just as potent now. She had charm and grace to spare, a trait he’d once thought was exclusive only to him. He’d thought he’d known her mind too, but she’d proved him wrong in the end and his grief had lasted too long to admit, even to himself.

“As I recall, you helped me break more than a few, Jack.”

The moonlit waters flowed freely around Jillian’s bare shoulders. What in hell was the famous lingerie designer wearing underneath all that pooling water? A bikini? A thong? The woman ran a successful million-dollar company aptly named Barely There. Maybe Jillian wore next to nothing.

Jack drew a deep breath reminding him that Jillian wasn’t the girl from the wrong side of the tracks anymore. She wasn’t that poor misunderstood wild child that had once touched his heart and made him want to protect and cherish her. But seeing her at the wells again, unguarded, smiling up at him with a gleam in her eyes and that come-here look on her face, had him stumbling for a comeback.

She had moved on. So had he. Both had made something of themselves. It was best to let it alone. “Now. I protect the law, Jillian.”

She looked away, staring out into the darkness. “And the fine people of Hope Wells.”

“One in the same.”

She stroked the water, her hands playing over the pooling liquid like a delicate instrument. “You were meant to be sheriff. It suits you.”

“Don’t see as I could be anything else, what with my father and his father before him, being sheriff. It’s in our blood, I suppose.”

“It’s a good thing, Jack. I understand you saved a little boy’s life. You’re the town hero.”

“I’m no hero, Jillian.”

His gut twisted. Visions of that fateful day tormented him still. That winter night six months ago, rain had poured down so heavily the banks couldn’t hold and the river overflowed in large gulps. The blinding deluge and a set of bad tires had the driver of a sedan skidding off the road and plunging into the raging water. Trapped inside the car was a family of three, a young boy and his parents. Jack had seen it all happen from his patrol car and hadn’t hesitated to jump into the river. Frantically, he’d searched for the passengers, hoping to help, hoping to save everyone. And then he’d seen it, the small arms of the boy flailing wildly from inside the car, his parents offering up the boy through the darkness as if to say, take him. Take him. Their faces strained in panic as they realized their fate. Jack would never forget that scene, as the swift current carried the car and the boy’s parents under and away. There wasn’t anything Jack could do for them but bring the boy to safety.

“I did what any other man would do in that situation.”

“Not every man, Jack.”

A breeze blew by and Jillian trembled. She’d been in the water too long. Typical Jillian.  “I think it’s time you got out.”

“You mean I can’t make a wish in the wells?”

“Is that what you’re doing, wishing?”

She gave her head a tilt. “Maybe.”

“It’s cold tonight. You should get out.”

“Is that an order, sheriff?” A teasing smile played on her lips.

“It’s a firm suggestion.”

“Will you hand me that towel over there?”

Jack reached for the towel hanging over a tree branch and walked closer to the wells as Jillian stepped out of the waters. Dewey droplets cascaded down her body adding a glimmering sheen on tanned, healthy-looking skin. He held the towel open, dipping his gaze to take a peek of frilly black silk covering her near naked body. Male fantasy wet silk.

“Thanks,” she said, tucking herself into the towel.

“It’s late. You’d best get to wherever you’re going.” He kept his focus on her face and off the tempting swells pushing the barriers of her towel.

“I’ve already been there,” she said breathlessly, running a hand through wet hair, “and the Winslows weren’t home.”

Jack arched a brow, ignoring how the honey blonde strands fell against her bare shoulders. “You’re staying at the Winslow place?”

“Yes. They said I’m welcome anytime.”

Jack twisted his lips and shook his head. He had a thousand questions for her, but only one pounded hard in his head repeatedly. Why was she here? What brought her back to Hope Wells after all this time? “Damn, Jillian. As far as I know, they’re gone for the weekend. Won’t be back until Monday.”

Jillian shrugged. “That’s okay. I’ll get a room at the motel or something.”

Jack took his hat off and ran a hand through his hair. Leave it to Jillian not to see things through. She’d always been the impulsive one, the make-love-to-me now and damn the consequences, kind of girl. Jack had been the one to hold back, to want to wait, to do right by her. Jillian had been a temptation from the start, a girl he’d wanted above all else, but he’d been the responsible one. Sometimes, he hated that about himself.

“Doubtful. The rodeo’s in town this weekend. You won’t find a room anywhere.”

Her face fell. “Oh.”

She chewed on her lower lip and Jack’s temperature rose watching her tongue dart in and out of her mouth as she contemplated her next move. He dragged his gaze off her mouth and glanced at his watch. It was almost eleven–too late for her to go traipsing along the highway looking for a place to stay. Jack doubted she’d find a vacancy for fifty miles or so.

Another breeze blew by and she shivered. Goosebumps erupted on her arms as she hugged the towel tighter. Ah, hell. “Follow my patrol car. I know a place you can stay.”

A nervous little laugh erupted and she shook her head. “No way, Jack. I’m not staying at the jail.”

Jack didn’t hide a wicked grin. “You don’t have too many options, now do you? Get dressed. I’ll wait for you by your car.”

 

Do you enjoy stories about lawmen? What did you think of the excerpt?  Some of my favorite television shows revolving around lawmen are Gunsmoke, Justified and Blue Bloods.  What are yours?  Post a comment and one blogger will be picked randomly and announced at the very end of the day to win a gift ebook copy of Taming the Texas Cowboy, book 1 or another of my available titles.  

LOVING THE TEXAS LAWMAN is available for PRE-ORDER and released on May 22nd.

Be sure to sign up for my latest news and contests at Charlenesands.com 

 

Updated: May 9, 2017 — 4:31 pm

THE MAKING OF A WESTERN SERIES and a giveaway by Charlene Sands

Most of the romantic series I’ve written are family sagas, with the stories centering around one set of family members or friends and usually, (but not always) the stories are set in the same town, territory, or city.  But the key factor is how to tie in the stories, while still making the plot easy to follow for readers who have not read the other books.  Authors often say the books are part of a series, but they can also be read as a STAND ALONE, meaning they have all the elements in the story to make for a satisfying read even if you haven’t read the other books.   It’s the task and joy for the writer to make sure the story holds up and is a cohesive enough to stand alone.

My series are usually a set of three stories, but sometimes as I’m writing, another character pops up that needs his or her to be told.  So there’s no hard and fast rule about how many books can be in a series.  If an author has a vision for six or ten or fifteen stories and the readers are invested enough and love the stories, the writing, and the setting, more the better.

 

 

What’s Fun About Writing a Series:

The Setting—once the town or ranch or territory is established, readers (and the authors) love to revisit familiar places from the earlier books.  In my Forever Texan series we often see the Bluebonnet Bakery and Wishing Wells and 2 Hope Ranch.

Taming the Texas Cowboy

The Characters—it’s fun to see the characters interact together from one story to another. Brothers, sisters, cousins, moms and dads and best friends all play a role, but the writers strive to make sure the romance between the hero and heroine is the main event in every story. The secondary characters often get their own stories later down the road.

The Theme – Often there’s an underlying theme that connects the stories.  It can something as simple as a holiday, Thanksgiving or Christmas maybe, or a special event such as a rodeo coming to town.  It can also be a wedding or a pregnancy that connects the stories.  The themes know no bounds.  I was once  part of a multi-author series about a Bachelor Auction.  I’ve also written a series centered around a winery called Napa Valley Vows, a series centered around a hotel called Suite Secrets and around a ranching family called The Slades of Sunset Ranch.

The Love–  Not between hero and heroine, because that’s a given,  but for the author.  Once I’ve established my town and the people in it and yes, even the stories I plot and plan out, I sorta fall in love with the whole idea.  These people are my friends, this town is somewhere I’d love to live and it’s the journey and the challenge to make the series click and stick, as I say.   One thing I know for certain, once the love is gone, once the writer tires of the setting or runs out of story, it’s time to move on, to be inspired once again.

I’m really proud of my new Forever Texan story set in Hope Wells, Texas.  The stories center around two cousins and their best friend.  It’s been a labor of love for me, as I started this series long ago and have finally found the right time and place to publish this trio of amazing Texans.   I’ve been lucky enough to have input in the covers, the titles and series name.  It makes this all the more special for me.

You may already know the first book in the series Taming the Texas Cowboy starring Trey and Maddie Walker, but I’m happy to say the second book in the series (Jack and Jillian’s story) is available for pre-order.  And this is the OFFICIAL COVER REVEAL for Loving the Texas Lawman.   I know, it’s a hardship looking at this guy, isn’t it?

 

 

The last thing honorable Sheriff Jack Walker needs is a blast from the past, but that’s exactly what he gets when his high school love, now sexy lingerie designer, Jillian Lane arrives on his doorstep needing his help and protection. 

Jillian is desperate to save her company, Barely There and turning to Jack Walker, the town hero, is her only option. The trouble she left behind in California has followed her home, leaving Jack no choice but to protect her. Unwittingly, Jillian’s put everything Jack has ever wanted in life at risk. 

The years have not made it easier for Jack to say no to his first love, but saying yes may threaten all he holds dear. Jack may have a solution: marriage–the temporary kind. And how can a girl from the wrong side of the tracks refuse a marriage proposal from her one-time love? 

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06Y3MW7HJ/?tag-tulepubli-20&tag=pettpist-20

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/books/1126172852?ean=2940157567781

https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/loving-the-texas-lawman/id1224208557?mt=11

https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/loving-the-texas-lawman

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B06Y3MW7HJ/?tag-tulepubli-21&tag=pettpist-20

 

 

For Fun:  Take a guess at the names of my hero and heroine from FOREVER TEXAN Book 3 titled, Redeeming the Texas Rancher coming this August.  Post either number ONE, TWO OR THREE and be entered into a random drawing to win a backlist book of your choice, either print or digital from my available titles.   Random drawing winner will be posted later tonight.  Be sure to stop by again!

 

  1. Conner and Willow
  2. Tristan and Susanna
  3. Colby and Dakota

 

 

Updated: April 11, 2017 — 12:08 pm

Let’s Play ‘Name That Character’!

I’ve always loved spring despite the fact that seasonal allergies have been the bane of my existence in recent years. But we moved away from pollen-ladden Nashville (a great city full of great people but also full of copious amounts of pollen that staged attacks on my sinuses) to the Gulf Coast of Florida. This past winter was the first one in my entire life where I never saw frost or a single snowflake, and I’m not complaining. 🙂 Even so, there’s still a different feel to spring here versus an admittedly more pleasant winter. It’s warmer, the sun is stronger, and people are flooding to the beach during their spring breaks from school. There’s the scent of sunscreen in the air, and when my husband and I went to the zoo yesterday I saw a lot of unfortunate sunburns.

I’ve always loved the sense of renewal that comes with spring. Gray, cold days giving way to warmth and sun. Dead grass giving way to green. Flowers popping up everywhere. So it’s extra exciting that this spring is also giving birth to the latest book in my Blue Falls, Texas series, In the Rancher’s Arms. I really like this story because the heroine has a similar background to me — as a journalist. Although she was an international reporter covering really important stories that were often dangerous, the latest of which led to her being kidnapped by human traffickers. I never had the nerve to go that route in my work, although I greatly admire those who do. After being saved, Arden comes back to her hometown of Blue Falls, Texas to heal and, this being a romance, finds love.

I’m also excited to be working on an independent project that’s connected to Blue Falls. I’ve created a new small town (Poppy) nearby and am going to be self-publishing a series of novellas set there. (You’ll also see Poppy appear in my Blue Falls book that will be out this fall.) I’ve only just started on the first one, so it’ll be a while before I’m ready to reveal that story to the world. However, I thought it would be fun to have a giveaway today that’s a little different than normal.

My heroine’s best friend, who I plan to be a heroine of a future story, helps run an antique store with her parents in this little town. I’d like her to have a fun, unique, perhaps even quirky name. So I’m asking for suggestions. I’ll pick my favorite and the winner will receive a packet of books from me as well as acknowledgment in that novella for your contribution. (Legal Note: The winner won’t receive any monetary remuneration or have any claim to the character and/or her name. This is just a fun way to engage with my readers that I thought everyone might enjoy.)

So, let the suggestions begin!

Updated: March 30, 2017 — 8:16 pm

VALENTINE’S DAY IN THE 1880’s and 5 Sweetheart Ebook Giveaways!

 

Next Tuesday is Valentine’s Day, a day of love and romance.  Can you guess what the gift of choice will be this Valentine’s Day?  If you guessed flowers, you’d be right, coming in first place at 1.9 billion. In second place, for a measly 1.7 billion is candy! That’s right and I’d bet most of those edible delights would be chocolate.  While 38 % of us will go out to dinner, 20% will receive jewelry and 1.1 billion will be spent on greeting cards.

Amazing.

The Valentine Card first came about in the 1500’s and by the 1700’s people began sending lace and paper flowered cards to each other on printed cards.

But the first American Valentine’s card didn’t hit our shores until 1849 when Ester Howland of Massachusetts designed 12 beautiful cards made by hand and gave them to her brother who was a salesman. She was hoping to make a small profit of $200.OO by selling her cards and to her great surprise, her brother came back to her with orders for $5,000 worth of cards.

 

And Ester found herself in business.  Her valentines made her famous throughout the United States and she became known as the “The Mother of the American Valentine.”  She is also credited with developing the first “lift up” valentine and another design of layering lace and a three dimensional accordion effect where a bouquet of flowers can be moved by a pull down string to reveal a verse.  That concept is still used today.

Ester continued making her valentine cards for the next thirty years.  She sold her business in 1880 to George Whitney in order to care for her ill father.

 

 

Valentine cards have surely gone through a progression of change.  Friends, family, lovers, husbands, wives and even children indulge.  It’s a fun heart-filled day to enjoy and appreciate the ones we love.  These days hubby and I go out to dinner to celebrate the day. Do you have a favorite way to celebrate?  Candy?  Cards?  Do you have any Valentine’s Day traditions?   Today I’m giving away 5 sweet reading treats– my back list EBOOK of The Billionaire’s Daddy Test to 5 lucky bloggers!.  (check later tonight for a list of giveaway winners)  

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wishing you a very happy sweethearts day and please keep reading as I have two new events to share with you!

Yay!  Taming the Texas Cowboy is available for pre-order:

 

 

After a disaster destroyed nearly everything Maddie Brooks owned, Trey Walker offered the petite redhead shelter at 2 Hope Ranch. A veterinarian, Maddie was smart, sexy, and good with animals… Impossible to resist, yet Trey is convinced he is cursed when it comes to women.
The temporary arrangement Maddie made with Trey was supposed to be strictly business. Easy, since Maddie had tried and failed to catch the handsome cowboy’s eye for a year. She thought she was so over him…until he kissed her. 

AMAZON    https://www.amazon.com/Taming-Texas-Cowboy-Forever-Book-ebook/dp/B01N7RZPSA/?tag=pettpist-20

Barnes and Noble Nook –

 

Friends, if you’re in the southern California area, SAVE THE DATE, for this fun Reader Appreciation Day.  Come sit at the table I’ll be sharing with the awesome Christy Jeffries and join the conversation, play Book Bingo where you can win GREAT prizes, enjoy sweet treats and simply have a wonderful afternoon.  This is how it works: You buy a $5 ticket ahead of time to reserve your spot and pick the author you want to sit with for the event. It’s like an exclusive, backstage pass to Romancelandia. Then, you will get a $5 voucher for the onsite bookstore (so really, your ticket is FREE), fun tote bags with FREE swag (Christy and I are giving away a   GIRLS NIGHT IN gift bag to our readers) and books, plus a FREE raffle ticket for some amazing gift baskets. Did you catch the “free” part? It’s a Win Win for readers!  To purchase your ticket go to: TICKETLEAP

 

Updated: February 8, 2017 — 11:52 pm

A Horse is a Horse, Of Course, Of Course by Charlene Sands

Charlene-with-Books

In my new release THE TEXAN’S ONE-NIGHT STANDOFF, my heroine Ruby Lopez is an expert horse wrangler and trainer.  As a result I had to do some extensive research on the subject of training horses.  I found some inspiration in the Australian television series Downunder Horseman, a tutorial on how to train horses. Believe it or not, horses aren’t exactly docile and they have many fears that they need to overcome, such as approaching a body of water, or going into the water.  It is not necessarily an inherent trait.  Ruby is a gentle soul when it comes to animals, but she’s a spitfire and an independent woman, who isn’t opposed to flipping a man over her shoulders when he deserves it.  She was so much fun to write, seeing how the man she nicknamed Galahad, because he rushed to her defense one night, softens her rough edges.

 

horse

 

How many of these fun horse facts did you know?  I was amazed at some of them!

Horses can sleep both lying down and standing up.

Horses can run shortly after birth.

Domestic horses have a lifespan of around 25 years.

A 19th century horse named ‘Old Billy’ is said to have lived 62 years.

Horses have around 205 bones in their skeleton

Horses have been domesticated for over 5000 years

A horse’s teeth take up more space in the head than a horse’s brain.

Horses drink at least 25 gallons of water a day, more in hotter climates.

Horses are herbivores (plant eaters).

Because horse’s eyes are on the side of their head they are capable of seeing nearly 360 degrees at one time.

Horses gallop at around  27 mph.

The fastest recorded sprinting speed of a horse was 55 mph.

Estimates suggest that there are around 60 million horses in the world.

Scientists believe that horses have evolved over the past 50 million years from much smaller creatures.

When horses look like they’re laughing, they’re actually engaging in a special nose-enhancing technique known as “flehmen” to determine if the smell is bad or good.

Horses have bigger eyes than any other mammal that lives on land.   (That’s amazing!)

 

12dayscharlenedesire-prize

I’ve been running this fun prize package on Facebook, yesterday, today and tomorrow.  Prize includes DVD, Bracelet Bling,  two Charlene Sands’ books and Santa Kisses!   Please stop by and enter to win my Twelve Days of Desire Giveaway!

And Happy Holidays from me to you!

the-texans-one-night-standoff

AMAZON 

AVAILABLE NOW ACROSS ALL BOARDS AND IN STORES!

Updated: December 5, 2016 — 2:48 pm

A Sneak Peek at The Texan’s One-Night Standoff by Charlene Sands

Hi Y’all.   I’m head deep in my next Texas Cattleman’s Club book, working on a deadline and hoping you’d like a sneak peek at my upcoming Desire.  The early reviews of this book have been wonderful garnering an average of 4.75 Stars out of 5 on Goodreads. Charlene-with-Books

 

And now for a little peek under the Christmas tree:

 

Brooks Newport swiveled around on the bar stool at the C’mon Inn, his gaze fastening on the raven-haired Latina beauty bending over a pool table, challenging her opponent with a fiercely competitive glint in her eyes. With blue jeans hugging her hips and creamy skin exposed from the cropped red plaid blouse she wore, the lady made his mouth go dry. He wasn’t alone. Every Stetson-wearing Texan in the joint seemed to be watching her too.

His hand fisting around the bottle, Brooks took a sip of beer, gulping down hard. The woman’s moves around the pool table were as smooth and as polished as his new Justin boots.

“Five ball, corner pocket,” she said, her voice sultry with a side of sass, as if she knew she wasn’t going to miss. Then she took her shot. The cue ball met its mark and sure enough, the five-ball rolled right into the pocket.

She straightened to full height, her chest expanding to near button-popping proportions. She couldn’t be more than five foot two, but what she had in that small package was enough to make him break out in a sweat. And that was saying something, since he’d come to Texas for one reason, and one reason only.

To meet his biological father for the first time in his life.

He’d spent the better part of his adulthood trying to find the man who’d abandoned him and his twin brother, Graham in Chicago. Sutton Winchester, his bitter older rival and the man Brooks thought might be his biological father turned out not to be his blood kin after all. Thank God.

But Sutton had known the truth of his parenthood all along and all Brooks could figure was the ailing man, plagued by a bout of conscience, had finally given up the name and location of his and Graham’s father.

Brooks would have been speaking with his real father at Look Away Ranch in Cool Springs right now, if he hadn’t gotten a bad case of nerves. So much was riding on this. The trek to get to this place in time, to solving the mystery surrounding the birth of the Newport twins, as well as his younger brother Carson, would finally come to fruition.

So, yeah, the powerful CEO of the Newport Corporation from Chicago had turned chicken. Those bawking noises played out in his head. He’d never run scared before and yet as he was breezing through this dusty town the Welcome sign and Christmas lights outside the doors of the C’mon Inn had called to him. He’d pulled to a stop and entered the lodge in need of a fortifying drink and a good night’s rest. He had a lot to think about and meeting Beau Preston in the light of day seemed a better idea.

He kept his gaze trained on the prettiest thing in the joint. The woman. She yielded the pool cue like a weapon and began wiggling her perfectly trim ass in an effort to make a clean shot. He sipped beer to cool his jets, yet he couldn’t tear his gaze away. He had visions of taking that bend on the pool tthe-texans-one-night-standoffable with her and bringing them both to heaven.

Long strands of her hair hung down to touch her breasts and as she leaned over even further to line up her shot, those strands caressed green felt. She announced her next shot and bam, the ball banked the left side and then ricocheted straight into the center pocket.

The whiskered man she was playing against hung his head. “Man, Ruby. You don’t give a guy a chance.”

She chuckled. “That’s the rule I live by, Stan. You know that.”

“But you could miss once in a while. Make it interesting.”

So, her name was Ruby. Brooks liked the sound of it, all right. It fit.

He had no business lusting after her. Woman trouble was the last thing he needed. Yet, his brain wasn’t doing a good job of convincing his groin to back off.

The game continued until she handed the older guy his vitals on a silver platter. “Sorry, Stan.”

“You’d think after all these years a man could do better against a teeny tiny woman.”

She grinned, showing off a smile that lit the place on fire, then set a sympathetic hand on the man’s shoulder and reached up to kiss his cheek.

The old guy’s face turned beet red. “You know that’s the only reason I endure this torture. For that kiss at the end.”

Her deep, provocative chuckle rumbled in Brooks’ ears. “You’re sweet for saying that, Stan. Now go on home to Betsy. And kiss your sweet grandson for me.”

Nodding, Stan smiled at her. “Will do. You be good now, you hear?”

“I can always try,” she said, hooking her cue stick on the wall next to a holly wreath.

Stan walked off and Ruby did this little number with her head that landed all of her thick silky hair on one shoulder. Brooks’ groin tightened some more. If she was any indication of what Cool Springs was like, he was quickly growing an affinity for the place.

The woman spotted him. Her deep-set eyes, the color of dark cocoa, met his for a second and time seemed to stop. Blood rushed through his veins. She blinked a time or two and then let him go, as if she recognized him to be an out-of-towner.

He finished off his beer and rose, tossing some bills onto the bar and giving the barkeep a nod.

“Hey, sweet doll,” a man called out, coming from the darkest depths of the bar to stand in front of her. “How about giving me a go-round?”

Ruby tilted her head up. “No thanks. I’m through for the night.”

“You ain’t through until you’ve seen me wield my stick. It’s impressive.” The big oaf wiggled his brows and crowded her against the pool table.

She rolled her eyes. “Pleeeeze.”

“Yeah babe, that’s exactly what you’ll be crying out once we’re done playing.”

“Sorry, but if that’s your best come-on line you’re in sad shape, buster.”

She inched her body away, brushing by him trying not to make contact with the bruiser. But the jerk grabbed her arm from behind and gave a sharp tug. She struggled to wiggle free. “Let go,” she said.

Brooks scanned the room. All eyes were still on Ruby, but no one was making a move. Instead, they all had smug looks on their faces. Forget what he’d thought about this town; they were all jerks.

The muscles in his arms bunched and his hands tightened into fists as Brooks stepped toward the two of them. He couldn’t stand by and watch this scene play out, not when the petite pool shark was in trouble. “Get your hands—”

The words weren’t out of his mouth, before Ruby elbowed the guy in the gut. “Oof.” He doubled over, clutching his stomach, and cursed her up and down using filthy names.

Crap. Now she was in deep. The guy’s head came up; the unabashed fury in his eyes was aimed her way. Brooks immediately pulled his arm back, fists at the ready, but before he could land a punch, Ruby grabbed the guy’s forearm. The twist of her body came so fast, Brooks blinked, and before he knew it, she’d tossed the big oaf over her shoulder WWF-style and had him down for the count. As in, she’d laid him out flat on his back.

Someone from the bar groused, “No one messes with Ruby unless she wants to be messed with.”

Apparently, the oaf didn’t know that. And neither did Brooks. But hell, the rest of them had known.

She stepped over the man to face Brooks, her gaze on the right hook he’d been ready to land. “Thanks anyway,” she said, out of breath. Apparently she wasn’t Supergirl. The effort had taxed her and he found himself enjoying how the ebb and flow of her labored breaths stretched the material of her blouse.

He stood there somewhat in awe, a grin spreading his mouth wide. “You didn’t let me do my gladiator routine.”

“Sorry, maybe next time.” Her lips quirked up.

Behind her, the bartender and another man began dragging the patron away.

“Does that happen often?” he asked her.

“Often enough,” she said. “But not with guys who know me.”

He rubbed at his chin. “No. I wouldn’t imagine.”

He kept his gaze trained on her, astonished at what he’d just witnessed. Her eyes danced in amusement, probably at his befuddled expression. And then someone turned up the volume on the country song playing, and his thoughts ran wild. He was too intrigued to let the night end. This woman wasn’t your typical Texas beauty queen. She had spunk and grit and so much more. Hell, he hadn’t been this turned on in a long, long time.

A country Christmas ballad piped in through the speakers surrounding the room. “Would you like to dance?” he asked.

She smiled sweetly, the kind of smile that suggested softness. And he would’ve believed that, if he hadn’t seen her just deck a man. A big man.

Her head tilted to the left and she gauged him thoughtfully.

He was still standing, so that was a plus. She didn’t find him out of line.

“Sure. I’d like that, Galahad.”

I hope you enjoyed my sneak peek!   Check out my website next week for more details on this fun surprise that I’d like to share with you.  To celebrate the fall, I’ve teamed up with more than 60 fantastic contemporary cowboy romance authors to give away a huge collection of novels, PLUS a Kindle Fire to one lucky winner!  Here’s what’s happening starting NEXT WEEK.  And remember to visit me on Facebook and on my website.

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The Texan’s One-Night Standoff is available for pre-order on Amazon and all other stores today.

Updated: November 9, 2016 — 10:48 pm
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