Category: Excerpt

WOLF SHADOW’S PROMISE — Excerpt and Gift

Howdy!  And good day!  Golly, I’m late today.

Here we are on another wonderful Tuesday and today I thought I’d post an excerpt from WOLF SHADOW’S PROMISE today.  If you go to Amazon, you’ll see that this is one of the books that I’m advertising at the moment.  It is part of the Legendary Warrior Series, that I wish to bring more attention to.  As an aside, I loved this series.  Of course, I love all the series’, but there is/was something I always considered special about the Legendary Warrior Series.

The book, set in Montana, is about a man determined to save his people from the whiskey trade, which is killing his people (and the truth is, that the whiskey trade was doing just that at this time period in history).  So come on in, scroll on down and I hope you will enjoy the excerpt.  Oh, and before I forget, I will be giving away a free e-book of WOLF SHADOW’S PROMISE, so please do leave a comment.  Over to the right here are our Giveaway Guidelines — these govern (so to speak) our give-aways.  And don’t forget to check back Wednesday or Thursday night to see if you are a winner.  I really do count on you to do so.

WOLF SHADOW’S PROMISE

by

Karen Kay

An Excerpt

 

“Come in, Little Brave Woman. The water is good, very, very good.”

Alys turned her head away from the man, her air dismissive. She heard his laugh and wondered what it might feel like to dunk him under that falling water. She felt certain it would bring her great relief.

She drew in a deep breath. She’d had no choice in accompanying him, of course.

She had watched him struggle toward the falls, had tried looking away, knowing he had exaggerated each and every falter in his step. Yet in the end, she had not been able to remain a simple observer.

She had come to his aid, had helped him through the tunnels and outside into the falls. She had even spied on him as he had undressed, much to her chagrin.

The flirt. He knew the effect he was having on her, seemed to relish in it.

“Hmmm. Feels good, this water,” he called to her again. “Are you certain you will not join me?”

“I am going to the house. I will come back here later and check on you.”

“What? And leave me here by myself?”

“Yes, and leave you here by yourself.”

“But what will you do if I fall? What if I need you to help me return to the cave?”

“You should have thought of that before you came here.”

“But I am thinking of it now. Can you really consider leaving me?”

“Very easily.”

A long silence befell them, and suddenly he was in front of her, dripping water all over her, with no more than a cloth covering his unmentionable parts. She stared up at him, shivers running up and down her spine. And it wasn’t from the cold: she didn’t need to be told twice how this man would look without that tiny bit of cloth covering him.

He said, “If you are not going to take advantage of the water, then I will dress and follow you back through the caves. But I think you are unwise to leave the bath, and me ready to attend your every—”

“Enough. Do you hear me? You have done nothing these past few days but bait me. And what do you mean, parading here in front of me with so little clothing on?”

“I am properly clothed.”

“I beg to differ. Do you think I don’t know what you look like without that…?” She felt a deep flush creeping up to her cheeks, saw a grin on his face. “How much of this do you think I can stand?”

“I do not know. A little too much in my opinion.”

“I am a friend. I am trying to help you recover from a gunshot wound. There is nothing more to it than that. This constant flirting with me must stop. Do you understand?”

“Me?” His look was comically innocent. “Flirting? What does this word mean?”

She frowned at him. He knew exactly what it meant. “You are impossible.”

“And yet I have only your good at heart.”

“Humph. I’m not so certain of that either.”

He smiled at her before, looking away, he suddenly frowned. “I think I am well enough to use some of my day in exercise.” He stole a glimpse toward the falls. “Have you heard any gossip about the whiskey schooners going north?”

“I…I haven’t asked.”

He sent her a hard look. “Would you…ask? I would know what is planned.”

“Why? You are not well enough to do anything about it. Not a thing.”

“I do not agree. Look you here to me. I am practically recovered.”

“So much so that you have needed my assistance to help you to your bath?”

He smirked. “That is different.”

“I hardly think so.”

He came down onto his knees before her, his dark eyes staring into hers, his look completely serious. “Would you please find out what you can? I cannot discover this on my own, for I cannot yet move about the fort with ease.”

“And you are in no shape to stage an attack on a whiskey schooner, even if there were any going north.”

“Still,” he persisted, “I must know.”

She hesitated, even while his dark eyes pleaded with her. She sighed, feeling as though she were putty in this man’s hands.  Though she knew she might come to regret it, she found herself saying, “Very well, I will do it, this once, but only after you are fully recovered. Do you understand?  Only then…”

He grinned. “And will you help me to recover?”

“Yes, I will try.”

“Aa, it is good.” He lifted one eyebrow. “And how will you help me, do you think? I have many ideas…”

She rolled her eyes heavenward.

 

WOLF SHADOW’S PROMISE — on sale now at:

http://www.amazon.com/WOLF-SHADOWS-PROMISE-Legendary-Warriors-ebook/dp/B075YC2T3X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1508813554&sr=8-1&keywords=wolf+shadow%27s+promise+by+karen+kay&tag=pettpist-20

 

 

Updated: September 3, 2019 — 10:53 am

More Than Words Can Say has Released!!!

The wait is finally over!

More Than Words Can Say is now available!

.

I’m so excited to share Zach and Abigail’s story with you. Dozens of readers wrote to tell me that they fell in love with Zacharias Hamilton in his big brother role in More Than Meets the Eye. I have to admit that I did, too. Finding the perfect heroine for him, was a challenge, but Abigail’s feisty independence, her big heart, and her dedication to family became a recipe for love that Zach couldn’t ignore. Oh, and she can bake like a dream. The old adage about the way to a man’s heart being through his stomach didn’t become a classic for nothing. Wink, wink.

I thought I’d introduce you to Abigail with a fun little excerpt.

Her cheeks were growing pink. Probably because he was just standing there staring at her like an idiot instead of saying something.

Tightening his grip on the square, he cleared his throat. “What kind of proposition?”

She thrust a set of papers at him, the sheets crinkling as the corners bent against his chest. “A business proposition. A rather . . . um . . . unconventional one, but one I believe will prove beneficial to both of us if you’ll look past the first hurdle.”

He reached for the papers. “That hurdle being?”

She straightened her posture, which was an impressive trick of engineering since she was already standing as stiff as the board he’d been working on moments ago. Then she met his gaze and something grabbed at his gut. “Marriage,” she said. “To me.”

A cough exploded in his throat. He ducked his chin and turned aside, the choking sensation worsening to the point that he had to brace his arms against the workbench as he struggled to control the spasms. He’d always wondered how his brother Seth felt when an asthma attack hit. Now he knew.

“It might appear to be a beggar’s bargain on the surface,” she said from behind him, “but I promise there are benefits.”

At the word benefits, images jumped immediately to Zach’s mind. Vivid images. Of bedsheets and unpinned hair. Of luscious curves, dimpled smiles, and welcoming glances.

His throat constricted further. Not even a cough could escape now.

“To start with, you can have all the sticky buns you like free of charge. For life.”

Breakfast. She was talking about breakfast.

Finally, a bit of air seeped into his lungs, allowing him to wrestle his unruly thoughts into submission as he turned to face Miss Kemp. He leaned back against the workbench, not yet trusting his knees to hold him upright on their own, and forced himself to meet his tormentor’s gaze.

He thrust the crumpled papers back at her. “I ain’t lookin’ for a wife.”

She made no move to collect the unwanted documents. “There’s a law,” she blurted. “A ridiculously archaic city ordinance that precludes women from owning businesses in Honey Grove. After my father died, the city council gave me three months to grieve, then approached me with an ultimatum. If I don’t sell the business, I can either partner with a male financial backer by the end of the month or have the marshal close the bakery doors for me. Permanently.”

Zach frowned. That seemed a bit extreme, but he didn’t doubt her word. Plenty of men believed that women belonged in the home and nowhere else. And he wouldn’t put it past them to enforce their will on her by dusting off some outdated legislation.

“That’s unfortunate, but I still don’t see what this has to do with me.”

Dimples appeared for the first time that afternoon as her lips curved in a triumphant grin. “You, my dear sir, are option number three.”

Grab your copy of Zach and Abigail’s story today!

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Christianbook
.

 

  • What are your favorite baked items for romantic occasions?
  • What treats do you bake specifically for that special someone in your life?

By the way, today is my 27th wedding anniversary. Still living the happily ever after and loving it!

Hmm . . . maybe I should whip up some baked goodies for my heroic hubby. Does refrigerated cinnamon roll dough count?

More Real Life Inspiration

I intended today’s blog to be on The Pack Horse Library program, but that will have to wait for next month. As I sat trying to write that piece, life has intruded changing my focus.

My current fosters Noelle, Dash and Charlotte

For those of you who don’t know, rescuing animals has become a large part of my life since my boys left the nest. I foster dogs with Cody’s Friends Rescue, and I handle administration for a primarily cat rescue, A Voice for All Paws. Being involved with these organizations has brought me both incredible joy and reeling sorrow.

As with many authors, my non-writing loves often find their way into stories. Such is the case with the third book in my Wishing, Texas Series, To Tame A Texas Cowboy which I recently turned in. A character playing a major role bringing Cheyenne and Cooper together is a rescued German Shepherd. She is based on and named in memory of Dennis Pisarski’s amazing service dog, Penny Lane, both of whom inspired the seed idea that became this book.

Cooper Abbott is contacted by the local shelter to foster Penny. After her owner dies, Penny is dumped in the shelter. One of my favorite scenes in To Tame A Texas Cowboy is when Cooper receives a call from the shelter. For me, this scene speaks volumes about my hero.

Here’s an excerpt:

“When Penny arrived, we had to carry her outside, and then she cowered and whimpered until we took her back in. Now she’s quit eating. You know what that means.”

With her owner, the anchor in her life gone, unless something changed, Penny’s case would become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Because of fear or depression, she’d hide in the back of her kennel. People would walk past her to more outgoing dogs. Those would be the lucky ones brought to meeting rooms to turn on the charm and find forever homes. But not Penny. Being withdrawn, she’d remain in her kennel, sinking further into herself, as her time slipped away or her health declined.

 “I need her out now, and since you’re currently without fosters, I started with you. Plus, you and Rowdy would do wonders for Penny,” Kelli said.

“If I weren’t moving, I’d gladly take her.”

“Moving? Where? When? How did I miss that news?”

After Cooper explained about his opportunity to take over the practice in Wishing, Kelli said, “She won’t make it here.” Kelli paused. “I’m making an exception. Because you’re a vet, we won’t worry about medical needs. Plus, Wishing’s only a couple hours away. You and Rowdy can work your magic on Penny, and when she’s ready for adoption you can bring her back. Or, maybe you’ll find an adopter in Wishing.”

“Then sure, I’ll foster her. I’m at the clinic, but I can be there in a few.”

Fifteen minutes later, Cooper knelt inside the kennel and stared at Penny Lane curled into a tight ball in the far corner. His hands tensed around the leash he held, but other than that he remained still, giving her time to adjust to his presence. Most dogs would be all over him by now. Jumping, barking, begging for attention, but not this girl. She’d already given up.

“Hello, Penny. I hear you’re having a rough time.”

The dog’s eyes opened, but she remained motionless. The trauma and loss she’d endured shone in her wide brown eyes.

He inched closer, watching for signs of aggression, but she’d pulled so far inward, she barely acknowledged him. She just plain didn’t care. He continued working closer. “Don’t give up, sweetheart. I know you’re missing your human, but there’s someone else out there for you. Someone who’ll love you, and wants, maybe needs you, too.”

Penny lifted her head the tiniest bit to stare at him. The look in her warm brown eyes was different than it had been a minute earlier, more haunted now, but with something else.

She thinks you’re a hypocrite. You talk the talk but aren’t big on walking that walk yourself.

Cooper shut out the mocking voice. “I’ve lost someone, too. I know it hurts like hell, but you can’t give up. She wouldn’t want you to.”

Olivia’s face flashed in his mind. Oval and delicate, framed with long blond hair and big blue eyes. Giving, and sweet as ripe Texas peaches in July, she’d had so much to offer him and the world.

They’d had their lives planned. After a small intimate wedding and a quick honeymoon, they’d return to College Station. She’d get the SeizureReader into production and run the budding company. Then they’d focus on saving the money for his practice where he could offer rescues and those who couldn’t afford it, reasonably priced vet care. They’d both be doing what they loved. They’d have each other, and eventually a family of their own.

But life hadn’t gone as planned. Two years, and yet at times, it felt as if they’d been together yesterday.

“You’ll get through this, Penny.” Cooper hooked the leash to Penny’s collar, slid his arms under her middle, and scooped her up. “Let’s get go home.”

Now it’s your turn. To be entered in the random drawing to win the picture frame and To Catch A Texas Cowboy, leave a comment about an animal who’s changed your life for the better.

 

Please remember, Adopt! Don’t Shop! For more information on Cody’s Friends Rescue or A Voice for All Paws or to see their adoptable pets, click on the organization name. If you’re not in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, you can click Petfinder and enter your zip code to find adoptable animals in your area.

 

 

 

 

Updated: April 2, 2019 — 7:24 pm

Dude Ranch Fun with Guest Author Caroline Clemmons

 

Please give a BIG Petticoats & Pistols Howdy to our Friday guest author Miss Clemmons!
She is giving away an e-copy of her latest book to TWO readers who leave a comment.
Here’s a short introduction for those of you who aren’t familiar with her or or books ~

 

Caroline Clemmons picThrough an illogical twist of fate, Caroline Clemmons was not born on a Texas ranch. To compensate for this inexplicable error, she writes about handsome cowboys,
feisty ranch women, and scheming villains in a small office her family calls her pink cave.
She and her Hero live in North Central Texas cowboy country where they ride herd on their rescued cats and dogs.
The books she creates there have made her an Amazon bestselling author
and won several awards.

Yee Haw! Thanks to the fillies at Petticoats and Pistols for having me today.

Years ago my husband Hero, our two daughters, and I went to the Mayan Dude Ranch near Bandera, Texas. Our eldest daughter had been petitioning (hounding) us for a horse. We hoped the ranch would pacify her. Were we ever wrong!

We were assigned to one of their native stone cabins, which was spectacular. The girls shared a room with two beds and a western theme. Hero and I had a lovely room with a fireplace and comfortable seating as well as a great bed. You’ve never seen two girls so excited. Hmmm, make that three because I loved the experience, too. Hero, not so much, but he was a good sport.

 The Medina River flows through the approximately 350 acre ranch owned by the Hicks family. Trail rides follow the river at times and are led by the head wrangler. We were there in early June, and the scenery was lovely. On our trail ride there were several teen-aged boys cutting up at the back of the line. They were used to horses and decided to head for the barn ahead of the others. As they raced past our daughter, her horse took off with them.

Being new to horseback riding, she wasn’t able to control the horse, or so we thought. The wrangler yelled he’d get her and urged his horse after hers. When he returned to us, he said she was having too much fun and didn’t want to be rescued. This was not a good sign for our plan.

Each night there was themed entertainment. One night after being served TexMex dinner, the entertainment was girls doing the Mexican hat dance followed by a piñata for the children. They also had a singing cowboy with his guitar, a trick roper, and other western attractions. To add variety, this was held by the Texas-sized swimming pool, in the dining room, the dance hall, or other areas.

The food was delicious. Their dining room was well-appointed in western style. A hayride took us to the cowboy breakfast one morning. We also attended a western cookout one evening. Nearby is the Old West town of Hicksville, which was a treat. Small but authentic, there is a dance hall and a couple of other businesses. If you don’t know how to dance, they’ll teach you while a live band plays.

 

We were surprised there were guests there from all over the world. The Mayan enjoys a top reputation, both for food and accommodations. For us, though, the excellent service and accoutrements only added to our daughter’s desire to have a horse. Foiled again! At least we had a great time.

 

 

 

While I have your attention, let me tell you about my latest release, GARNET, book 9 of The Widows of Wildcat Ridge series.

Garnet Book Cover

The universal buy link at Amazon is http://getbook.at/garnetWOWR.  

Garnet Chandler is fighting to hold onto her café, her niece and nephew, and her sanity after the deaths of her husband, his brother, and his sister-in-law. A persistent prowler and the threat of losing custody of her niece and nephew spur her to action. She doesn’t need another man, but she needs a husband long enough to convince the children’s grandparents she can offer a stable home.

Bounty hunter Adam Bennett was ready to settle down when his friend was killed by a horse thief. He set out to capture the man who had also killed a guard when escaping prison. Adam must have let down his defenses because the man he followed and two cohorts waylaid Adam, beating him and stealing all his possessions before kicking him down a steep ravine. Adam is determined to capture the three as soon as he heals from their encounter.

Garnet and Adam join forces to achieve both their goals but will that be enough?

Here’s an excerpt when Adam first meets Garnet:

A loud rap at the back door startled her. She kept the curtains closed unless they were serving food and couldn’t see who had knocked.

Joey grabbed his stick. “Don’t answer it. Might be the robber there.”

She wiped her hands on her apron. “Or a friend who needs something.” Joey didn’t know the Colt was in her apron pocket. After taking a deep, bracing breath, she opened the door.

The dirtiest man she’d ever seen stood there. His beard was as dirty as his clothes. Fresh cuts showed through the mud on his face. He was tall and broad-shouldered but looked as if he could barely stand.

“Ma’am, my name is Adam Bennett. Please don’t be put off by my appearance. I was robbed up the mountain a ways and lost all my gear. I’m mighty hungry. If you need anything done, I’d like to work for a meal.”

Joey was by her side. “He isn’t the one from last night.” All the same, her nephew kept his pick handle in his hand.

“We’re the Chandlers. Come in and sit down. Wait, wash your hands and face at the sink first. You can’t handle food while you’re that filthy.”

While the man washed his hands, she filled a plate from leftovers and poured a cup of coffee. “Joey, please get my medicine box from upstairs.”

He leaned close. “I don’t think I should leave you alone while he’s here.”

Joey took being man of the family seriously. “Oh, all right. Hyacinth, would you get the medicine box for me?”

“How come he doesn’t have to and I do?” Usually sweet, Hyacinth was a bit spoiled and definitely jealous of her brother.”

“Because Mr. Bennett is injured and needs our help. Please hurry.”

Her niece stomped up the stairs while muttering under her breath, her golden curls bouncing with each step.

When Garnet glanced at the man, she saw he’d wolfed down his food. “I’ll get you more. How long since you’ve eaten?”

“Not sure how long I was in and out of consciousness up there. They attacked me on Saturday. What day is this?”

“Monday. No wonder you’re hungry.” She set another plate of food in front of him and refilled his cup.

What about you?
Would you love the Old West atmosphere combined with modern comforts at a dude ranch?
Leave me a comment to be eligible for the giveaway.

I’ll be giving away an e-copy of GARNET to two people who comment on this post.  

Come visit me on my blog, website, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Google+, and Pinterest

Cowboy Brave with Guest Author Carolyn Brown

Please give a warm ‘welcome back’ to our guest author Carolyn Brown! 
She’s here to talk about the newest book in her Longhorn Canyon Series and also
to give one (plus a bonus!) as a gift for one lucky person who comments.

Carolyn Brown Headshot

Author Carolyn Brown

For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of meeting Miss Carolyn
or her books, here’s a short introduction …

 

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Carolyn Brown was born in Texas and raised in southern Oklahoma. These days she and her husband make their home in Davis, Oklahoma, a small town of less than three thousand people where everyone knows everyone, knows what they are doing and with whom, and read the weekly newspaper to see who got caught.

A plaque hangs on her office wall that says “I know the voices are not real but they have such great ideas.” That is her motto and muse as she goes through the days with quirky characters in her head, telling their stories, one by one, and loving her job.

 

 

Howdy to all y’all at Petticoats and Pistols! Every time I see the name of your site, I think of my Christmas present last year. Mr. B bought me a lovely little five shot .38 caliber pink pistol. I didn’t want anything that fired 15 rounds in ten seconds. I figure if I can’t hit something with five bullets, then I shouldn’t be firin’ a gun.

I loved writing Cowboy Brave. Justin and Emily were such fun characters to have in my head for those weeks when we were writing the book. And I do say we, not I, because if I didn’t get the story just right, they kept me awake at night.

The blurb for the book tells you a little about Justin and Emily, so I thought maybe today we’d interview the Fab Five. That would be the five senior citizens in the retirement center where Emily works. I thought maybe I’d just give you a little excerpt to introduce you to them. Picture this (as Ma used to say on Golden Girls)—Bowie, Texas, last year. The Fab Five are all in the van on the way to Longhorn Canyon ranch for a week. They’re excited to be away from the retirement center for a whole week, and Emily is driving for them. She’ll be staying with the three ladies in the girls’ bunkhouse. Otis and Larry will live in the boys’ bunkhouse. Now get ready for the ride…

~ Excerpt ~

“Wagons, ho!” Otis shouted from the middle of the van.

“Wagons, my royal butt,” Patsy said. “We’re on tour and this is our tour bus. We’re off to do shows.”

“And what are you going to do?” Bess poked her sister in the arm. “You never could carry a tune, so it can’t be anything musical.”

“Oh, but, honey, I can dance, and I’ve been practicing my striptease dance. I bet Larry can figure out a way to fix me a pole so I can do my best work,” Pasty shot back.

Larry’s grin deepened the wrinkles. “I’ll get my dollar bills ready to stuff inside your under britches, darlin’.”

“Everyone buckled up?” Emily called out as she started the engine.

“Yep!” they all said in unison.

Emily put the van in reverse, popped the clutch, and spun out, leaving a skid mark on the concrete parking lot. “Then get ready for a ride. If you see flashing red lights, yell at me and I’ll go faster.”

“This ain’t a tour van, it’s a race car. When we get to the ranch, we should do some street racin’ in the pasture,” Sarah yelled from the back. “I love to drive fast.”

“You love anything fast. Did you take your heart pills this mornin’?” Patsy said.

“Did you?” Sarah shot back. “I just have to take one to keep my ticker goin’. You have to take three, so don’t be fussin’ at me.”

“Both of you hush and enjoy the fast ride,” Bess demanded.

“You got it, darlin’.” Sarah’s blue eyes glittered. “I’m like fast food. Hot, cheap, and ready in a minute.”

“That’s like Patsy in college,” Bess said.

“Oh, the sweet memories.” Patsy sighed.

Now that you’ve met the five, would you like to see what kind of trouble they’re going to get into,
and how they try to play match maker between Emily and Justin Maguire?

But wait before you answer, there’s more. As a special treat this is a two in one book.
You also get the Second Chance Cowboy by A. J. Pine. So happy reading to all y’all!!

(Don’t forget to comment to be included in the drawing for the giveaway!)

 
FYI: Books in order of publication
Cowboy Bold, May 2018
Cowboy Honor, September, 2018
Cowboy Brave, Now Available!
Cowboy Rebel, May 28, 2019
 
 
Buy Links for the books:

 

 

First Kiss ~ An Excerpt

Do you remember your first kiss?

A first kiss can be quite memorable ~ whether it is anticipated, unexpected, desired…or not.
It can be fireworks and sparklers or, unfortunately, it can be the opposite ~ a bit disappointing.

 

Abigail, in Christmas with the Outlaw, can be a bit … prickly. It’s her way of coping, her way of staving off disappointments and protecting herself. The only one she has ever let close is her brother. I thought it was high time she had her own book and her own Happy Ever After. With this in mind, I’d like to share a scene from my story in the Oak Grove Series ~ Abigail and Russ’s first kiss.

 

Excerpt ~ Christmas with the Outlaw

 

Every moment she spent with him increased the fullness in her heart and made her aware of how special, how important he was to her.

“I never meant to hurt you.” His voice—gentle and full of remorse—melted the last vestige of hurt inside.

“I’m glad you explained yourself. Let’s put it behind us. It’s over. No more regrets.” Even though neither of them had said the words I’m sorry, Abigail felt immeasurably better. She reached for the tray, intending to carry it downstairs.

“When I left the mine, all I could think about was getting away from Barton. If the first train that arrived had been going to Denver I would have ended up there.”

“I realize that.”

He rose to his feet. “It’s important that you understand. Seeing you again after all these years—it might have been chance…” He took her hand and seemed to search for the words he wanted to say.

Her arm tingled from his touch. “I do. Russ. But…it’s difficult to concentrate on what you’re saying when you touch me.”

Amusement flashed on his face, but then he grew serious again, his startling blue eyes earnest. “I’m glad that train came here. Very glad.”

Her heartbeat sped up. “I am too.”

He drew closer. “I’ve missed you, Abby. I didn’t know how much until I saw you again.”

The deep timbre of his voice thrilled her. His words thrilled her. She swallowed. “I feel the same.”

His gaze drifted to her lips.

A shiver of desire raced through her body. “Russ…” she whispered. “What…?”

He smiled. “Must you always analyze things? Come closer and I’ll show you.”

He wanted to kiss her! Her heart beat triple time. She couldn’t have taken a deep breath if she had wanted to.

He brushed aside a wisp of her hair, his light touch sending tingles over her temple. “Your thoughts are still churning. I can see it on your face. You know me, Abby. I won’t hurt you. I promise. Not ever again.”

“You will leave.”

His eyes clouded over. “Not because I want to.”

She leaned closer.

He slipped his hand behind her neck and pulled her toward him, closing the last inch between them. His lips met hers, warm and gentle and firm. Her breathing stopped…and then started again. And she melted inside. Everywhere he touched, he caressed, causing tingles to spread through her. A whirlwind swirled inside her. This…this was right. This was wonderful!

Her first kiss…

 ** ** ** 

His pulse kicked up as he breathed in the scent of cinnamon that was Abby. She relaxed, softening against him. Innocent. Honest in her feelings. She wasn’t like the other women he’d known. She didn’t flirt. She didn’t tease. She was a breath of fresh air. And precious. Little Abby!

He dropped light kisses across her cheek and delighted when he heard her sigh. Then he came back to her lips, wanting more of her. There was no maybe about it. He was getting in over his head. She had intrigued him as a girl and now she bewitched him as a woman.

Reluctantly, he pulled away.

That stub of a pencil still balanced on her ear. Seeing it, seeing her, a tenderness came over him that he’d never known before. He cared for her. Really cared for her. And he didn’t want to hurt her. He waited for her to speak.

Her cheeks were a bit flushed, her eyes overly bright. “Uh—”

Abby? At a loss for words? It was so unlike her that he grinned.

She swallowed. “Do you mind if we don’t talk about this? I’m afraid it will ruin things. And it was rather…special.”

He grew serious. It was special, whatever this was between them, and he wanted more of it. She was the type of woman who would expect a future. His was murky at best. He had no idea what his held, but he knew in this moment that he wanted it to hold her. “I don’t mind at all.”

“I’ll just take your tray down,” she said, her face, her eyes, still dazed.

“Any dessert?”

She smiled softly. “You just had it.” Then she disappeared around the corner.

  ** ** ** ** ** ** 

Christmas with the Outlaw (A Western Christmas Homecoming Anthology)

© by Harlequin Books & Kathryn Albright

Permission to reproduce text granted by Harlequin Books S.A.

I hope you enjoyed this excerpt! And I hope you will check out my newest story,
Christmas with the Outlaw in A Western Christmas Homecoming Anthology!

 

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Re-releases and a Giveaway

Hello everyone, Winnie Griggs here.  For various reasons that I won’t go into here, I haven’t had a new release out this year, so I was doubly happy to learn Love Inspired was re-releasing two of my earlier novels as part of their two-in-one program. And both of the books they chose are very special to me (of course I feel that way about most of my books).

Late October saw the release of an anthology that included The Christmas Journey and two novellas, Christmas Bells for Dry Creek by Janet Tronstad and The Christmas Secret by Sara Mitchell. This book is special to me because it was the first book of my 3 book and a novella Knotty Pines series.  It was also based on a premise I’d been mulling over for a number of years, that of a heroine who longs to travel and have adventures but is held back by family obligations. Her solution is to try to find a husband for her widowed sister so she can transfer those responsibilities to him and chase her dreams guilt-free.

Here is an excerpt:

Jo resisted the urge to stomp her foot.

It wasn’t fair that Ry had everything she wanted and seemed so discontent.  Yet he judged her for daring to set her sights beyond Knotty Pine.  He wouldn’t think her life was so rosy if he were the one living it.  Too bad they couldn’t up and change places.  If he had all her family responsibilities…

She stilled.  What if he did have her responsibilities?  It was obvious the family already liked him.  And he seemed equally taken with them.  If she could somehow make him an actual part of the family, he was the sort of man who’d do everything he could to provide for and protect those in his care.

Cora Beth admired him.  Jo could see he liked her too.  As for the rest of the family, after that ruckus in the livery Danny practically hero-worshipped him.  Ry had shown he could deal with her nieces – why, he even got along with Uncle Grover.  They’d all be in good hands.

As for Ry’s part, what man wouldn’t be attracted to Cora Beth?  She had that sweet domestic air about her that drew men looking for a wife like bees to honey.

If Ry and Cora Beth were to get hitched, she would be free to leave Knotty Pine knowing the family was well cared for.

So what if she’d been doing a bit of daydreaming over him herself?  It was just because he’d been so all-fired heroic the other day and, to be honest, handsome as all get out.  But, even if the thought stung a bit, she was realistic enough to know a man like Ryland Lassiter wouldn’t fall for a girl like her.

Besides, she didn’t need a man to tie her down.  Just the opposite – she wanted to cut her tightly-knotted bonds to this place so she could fly free.

In that respect, Ry was the answer to her prayers.  God’s hand had been in the timing of his trip through Knotty Pine, she was certain of it. 

Jo lifted her chin.  If this tug of attraction she felt for him was a way of testing her resolve, she was more than up to the challenge.  All she needed for her plan to work would be for someone to give Ry and Cora Beth a little push. 

And no matter how much her silly heart protested, she was just the person to do it.

My second book on the 2018 re-release list The Hand-Me-Down Family will come out in December and it’s paired with Victoria Bylin’s The Maverick Preacher. This book was the very first one I published with Love Inspired Historical and it is based on a premise I’d been trying to develop for several years – that of a mail order bride that married her husband by proxy before she left home and then arrived in her new home to discover she was already a widow. It wasn’t until I married this with another tidbit from my ‘idea file’, that of a hero who left home to get out from under his ‘perfect’ brother’s shadow, that the story finally came together.

Here is an excerpt:

The minutes drew out as the driver unloaded luggage and parcels from the back of the stagecoach.  It was hotter here in Texas than it had been in Ohio.  Callie longed to loosen her tight-fitting bonnet, or better yet, take it off altogether, but she dare not.  Not until she was away from prying eyes and safely inside her new home.

A number of townsfolk stopped to speak to her fellow passenger, Jack, but though she received a friendly nod or two, and more than one curious glance, no one stepped forward to greet her.  

Finally, the last of the baggage and cargo was unloaded and the driver stepped inside the hotel with a mail sack.  The man Jack lifted two of the bags, easily hefting the larger one up to his shoulder. 

Callie couldn’t help but wonder – would her new husband be as fine and strong a figure of a man as this Jack? 

As if feeling her eyes on him, the man paused and met her gaze.  His expression was gruff and a muscle twitched at the corner of his mouth.  “Is someone meeting you?”

She smiled, grateful for his show of concern, reluctant though it might be.  “Yes, thank you.  I’m certain my husband will be along soon.”

Something akin to surprise flashed across his features at the word husband, but it was gone in an instant.

“Good.”  He nodded and allowed his friend to take one of his bags.  “If you’re sure you don’t need any help…”

But as Callie watched him walk away, it was as if the last link to her old life were being severed.  A foolish notion since she really didn’t know this man at all.  But before she could stop herself, she took a small step forward. “Excuse me.” 

Both men turned, facing her with questioning glances. 

“Ma’am?” Jack prompted.

“I was wondering if perhaps either of you know a Mr. Leland Tyler?  He was sup…”  Her voice tapered off as she saw their startled reactions. 

Jack’s jaw tightened visibly.  “Why would you be looking for Lanny?”

Callie noticed his familiar use of her husband’s name.  “So you do know him.”

That tic near the corner of his mouth made another appearance.  “Yes.”  He didn’t expand on his one-word answer, and his expression remained closed, unreadable.  “But you didn’t answer my question.  How do you know Leland?”

Callie offered up a quick prayer that Mr. Tyler would arrive soon.  He should be the one making the introductions to his neighbors and friends.  “I’m Callista Johnson Tyler, his wife.”

“Wife!”  Jack set his bag down with a loud thump and sent a sharp look his companion’s way.  “You know what she’s talking about, Virgil?”

The other man shook his head.  “Lanny never said anything about a new wife.”

They certainly were reacting strongly to her news.  She knew Julia had only been gone about four months, but it wasn’t unusual for a widower to remarry so soon, especially when he had a young child to care for.

For that matter, why didn’t they already know about her?  Surely Leland wouldn’t have kept such momentous news from his friends and neighbors?  Unless he’d worried she wouldn’t show up. 

Or was there another, more disturbing reason?  Her heart beat faster as possibilities whirled through her mind.

Realizing the men were watching her, Callie tried to hide her confusion behind a confident air.  “I’m not certain why Mr. Tyler chose to keep this a secret.  Perhaps he was planning to surprise everyone.  But be that as it may, I assure you, I am indeed Mrs. Leland Tyler.  If you’ll be so good as to tell me where my husband can be found, I’m certain he’ll verify my identity.”

Jack took another step forward.  “Perhaps we should introduce ourselves first.”  He swept an arm toward his companion.  “This is Virgil Wilson.” 

She smiled and nodded acknowledgement. “Mr. Wilson.” 

The farmer touched the brim of his hat, ducking his head respectfully.  “Ma’am.”

When she turned back to Jack he was studying her intently, as if trying to read something from her countenance.  Holding her gaze, he extended his hand.  “And I’m Leland’s brother Jack.”

 

 

So what do you think? Did one of these two stories pique your interest more than the other? If so, let me know why.  I’m going to select two names from those responding and give each their choice of one of these two books.

 

 

Welcome Guest – Nerys Leigh!!!

MARRIAGE, CONSENT, AND MAIL ORDER BRIDES
by Nerys Leigh

The issue of consent is very much a hot topic these days, and I think we would all agree that forcing one’s attentions on someone without their consent is wrong. But what about back in the nineteenth century, between a husband and wife? What was a mail order bride to do who had just married a man she didn’t know?

So far in my Escape to the West series, the issue hasn’t come up, with my brides for one reason or another not having to face the prospect of intimacy with a man they’ve only just met. But in More Than Gold, the sixth book in the series, all Gabriel wants is a woman to cook, clean, and warm his bed. In his world, people get married for practical purposes and nothing more. His new wife, however, has different ideas. Despite being forced to travel across the country to marry a man she’s never met, Grace refuses to give up on her dream of being loved and cared for.

So when Gabriel makes his move barely three hours after she arrives, he doesn’t get the response he’s expecting!

Excerpt from “More Than Gold” by Nerys Leigh.

Gabriel rose and walked across the room to her, stopping just a foot away when she turned around.

“You’re a real handsome woman, Grace,” he said, sliding his hands around her waist and leaning in for their first kiss.

A fist slammed into the side of his face, whipping his head round and sending him reeling backwards.

She grabbed a skillet from the cupboard and held it in front of her like a weapon. “What are you doing?!”

He shook his head to clear it. The woman had a right hook most men would have been proud of. “What do you think I’m doing? We’re married. We’re going to do what married folks do.”

It was a perfectly natural assumption, as far as he was concerned.

But not for her, apparently. “We’ve known each other for less than three hours and you expect me to just allow you to have your way with me?”

What was going on here? “Uh… yes?”

She gasped in a horrified breath. “You… you… uncouth brute!”

He was fairly sure uncouth was a bad thing.

Drawing himself up, he pointed his finger at her. “Now wait just a minute. We’re legally wed. It’s not like you’ll be whoring yourself out to me. I’m your husband.”

Her eyes looked like they could pop right out of her head. “Whoring?!”

It may have been a poor choice of words.

He raised both hands, palms out in surrender. “That ain’t what I meant. I’m just saying that it’s natural for a husband and wife to want to…”

“Well I don’t want to, so you keep your hands to yourself!” She brandished the pan, forcing him to step back.

He rubbed at his aching face. If she could do that with just her fist, no telling what kind of damage she could do with a skillet.

He decided to try reasoning with her, from a safe distance. “I know we haven’t been together for long, but we’d been writing letters to each other for nigh on three months before you came. I reckon we know each other plenty. I promise I’ll be real gentle and…”

“You won’t be gentle. You won’t be anything.” She waved the skillet. “Because it isn’t happening!”

So what do you think? Is intimacy simply a matter of being married? Or is it something deeper, coming out of the kind of love, care and respect that will last a lifetime?

 

Comment your thoughts below for the chance to win an ebook of your choice from my Escape to the West series!

Fall Colors, Scents and the Beauty of Autumn — Give Away

Howdy! 

I love Autumn.  Love the scents, the colors, the fall into slumber for trees, the shrubs, the grass, the ever-flowering plants (and the bears).  : )  It’s such a beautiful time of year, that it’s hard to stay inside, isn’t it?  Doesn’t it make you want to get out there and rake leaves and then, of course, jump into that pile?

I grew up in the Mid-West, where autumn was long and gorgeous with golden, yellow, orange and brown leaves and fresh scents.  But…I didn’t know/hadn’t experienced the absolute beauty of the East in the Fall of the year.  My goodness!  Orange, sugar maples, deep red-leaf maple trees,  Japanese maples, ash, oak and golden birch trees, just to name a few.  Takes one’s breath away.

But that’s only using one of our senses to describe this time of year.  How about the scents of falling leaves, the smell of smoke and wood-burning stoves, the cinnamon-ie smells of baked goods, apple cider, the knowledge that Halloween and dress-up is around the corner?  The feel of the earth beneath your feet as it, too, gears up for the winter ahead?  The cool fragrance?  The touch of tree bark and leaves, the sound of leaves falling?  What beauty.

One of my series’ — the Iroquois series — is set in the fall of the year.  When writing that series, I deliberately placed the story in the autumn because in my consideration there is no where in the world like autumn in New England, and the Iroquois Confederation was, of course in New York, deep in the area of the Adirondack Mountains.  A couple of those covers show off the beauty of New England. 

Those books are Black Eagle and Seneca Surrender.  And to the left here are those beautiful covers — one cover from Berkley/Penguin/Putnam and the other from Prairie Rose Publications.

 

 

 


Yes, there will be a give-away today and in celebration of this event, I’ll be giving away three different e-books (please refer to our Giveaway Guidelines).  One of those books will be BLACK EAGLE, since it is set in the Fall.  I’ll also be giving away the e-book, The Princess and the Wolf and the e-book, Brave Wolf and the Lady.   Those covers are off to the right here:  

Now because there is a scene in both BLACK EAGLE and SENECA SURRENDER that describes the fall of that year, I thought I would leave you with an excerpt of that scene.

From the book, BLACK EAGLE and SENECA SURRENDER

By Karen Kay, writing as Gen Bailey

 

White Thunder rested his weight upon his flintlock, looking west, toward the sky, where the sun was a low, half pinkish-orange orb on the horizon, announcing its departure from the day in glorious streaks of sunlight. Shafts of light, streaming from the clouds, beamed down to the earth, looking as though heaven itself smiled kindly upon the land. And what a magnificent land it was. The birch trees were yellow, the maples red, and the oaks announced their descent into a long winter’s sleep with browns, oranges and golds. The hills were alive with autumn hues, while the air was filled with the rich, musky scent of falling leaves.

It was a beautiful time of year, when the days were still warm, but the nights were cool. But it wasn’t the beauty that was set off before him that had drawn him toward the lake this day. He’d been hunting, when something had called to him upon the breeze.  Perhaps it was the rustle of the water that had announced that there was a subtle difference between the lake environment of yesterday and how it was today. But what?

Stepping quietly toward the lake, he squatted and set his musket onto his lap as he bent over to partake of a drink from the water’s cool depths.

Instantly he sat up, alert. From out the corner of his eye he caught the movement of something, and, glancing toward it, he recognized a piece of clothing. A woman’s skirt? Rising, he stepped toward it to get a better look at the thing, if only to satisfy his curiosity.

That’s when he saw her. She was a white woman, blonde-haired and slim.

Was she alive?

After hauling himself onto the rock where she lay, he stepped toward her and bent to look at her. He placed his fingers against her neck, feeling for a pulse. Her body was so very cold, and he was more than a little surprised when he felt the sure sign of life within her. The pulse was weak, but it was still there.

Turning her slightly, he was intrigued by her pale beauty. Of course, being Seneca and from the Ohio Valley, he’d had opportunity to witness the unusual skin color of the white people. But it wasn’t as familiar a sight to him as one might reckon.

Who was she? How had she gotten here? And what had happened to her?

Glancing in all directions, he took in the spectacular sights of the forest. Where did she belong? Who did she belong to?

There was nothing here to answer him, nothing to be seen, no other human presence to be felt. Nothing but the ever expansive rhythm of nature.

Using his right hand to brush her hair back from her face, he noted again how cold she was. However, he couldn’t help but be aware of how soft her skin was, as well. Putting his fingers against her nostrils, he felt the weak intake and outflow of breath. She was alive, barely.

Did he dare take her away from here? A white woman?

He hesitated and waited. He watched. Nyoh, he was the only one here, the only one to settle her fate.

That decided him. If she were to live through the night, he had best take care of her. She needed warmth, nourishment and a chance to heal.

Bending at the waist, he laid his hands over her torso. Depending on the type of injury he might discover, he would either nurse her here or take her to a more protected spot. He ran his fingers gently over each of her arms, including her hands and fingers. He felt for anything broken.

He could detect nothing. Widening his range, he sent his graze over the sides of her ribs, ignoring her ample breasts. Though his scrutiny was fast, it was thorough. Were there any bruises? Was anything broken? Amazingly, he found nothing.

He continued his search down each of her legs. Surely, there must be some clue that would tell of her recent history. Perhaps she had broken her neck, or back? With an easy touch, he tested the theory, sending his fingertips down over the muscles and bone structure of her neck. Nothing. Nothing substantial to indicate a problem that would claim her life. Turning her lightly onto her side, he felt along her spinal column. Several bones were out of place, but nothing was broken. Her body seemed intact.

He frowned. Again, he wondered what had happened to her.

Was it the spirits of the water?  The falls?  This was a dangerous area. Had the force of the rapids claimed another victim?

But why would she have been near the falls? A white woman in the woods alone? His jaw clenched. There had to be someone close by. Glancing up and looking around again, he realized that the puzzle of her appearance would not be solved here. His examination of her had at least established one fact. She was fit to travel.

Taking her into his arms, he was more than aware that she felt light in his grasp. He stepped down off the rock. Not knowing exactly how she had come to be here, he kept his attention attuned to the environment, listening for a sign of other life, anything to indicate the presence of another in the surroundings. She was a beautiful woman. Whomever she belonged to would miss her.

Again, he could sense nothing unusual in the environment around him—not anything that would give him any idea as to what had happened.

Enough. She required care.

Gathering her in his arms, he rushed toward the security of the woods. If someone were here watching, the trees and bushes offered sanctuary. At least there he could hide himself and her, as they fled deeper into the woods. But where would he take her? He hadn’t yet constructed his own shelter for the night, and it was already late in the day.

If his memory served him correctly, there was a cave nearby that might lend itself well for their purposes, provided that a bear or other animal hadn’t laid claim to it. It was a quiet place, if he remembered rightly, away from the all-seeing eyes of the forest. Plus, it was little known by his own and other tribes. Long ago, his grandfather had shown it to him, indicating it might serve well if ever he were in trouble.

As White Thunder hurried toward that spot, he gazed down into the pleasing features of the woman, realizing that his curiosity about her hadn’t abated. However, there would be time enough to discover who she was once they were safely sheltered. For now, he had best make haste to see if the cave were occupied or vacant.

Balancing her weight and his musket into more secure positions, he darted through the forest, disappearing into it.

Below is the cover of SENECA SURRENDER by Samhain Publishing, as it was going to be published before Samhain closed its doors.  It’s a beauty and I thought I’d share it with you.  Please leave a comment and let me know your memories of this time of year.  I’d love to talk to you.

 

Updated: September 26, 2018 — 2:39 pm

Brave Wolf and the Lady — Steamboats — Were They Safe?

Howdy!

Although the title doesn’t say it, I will be giving away a free e-book of BRAVE WOLF AND THE LADY, so read our guidelines for giveaways — off to the right here — and leave a comment.

So…steamboats — for all practical purposes, they opened up the West.  Starting with the first Steamboat, The Yellow Stone, they traveled up and down the Missouri and the Mississippi Rivers, bringing people back and forth, and carrying on a business in terms of trade and furs and many, many other items.  George Catlin traveled on the first steamboat, The Yellow Stone, in 1834.  In his book, Letters and Notes on the Manners, Customs, and conditions of NORTH AMERICAN INDIANS, Catlin word paints the time and place, as well as the details of travel upon the Steamboat at that time.  He makes it come alive.

In my newest book, BRAVE WOLF AND THE LADY, as well as the book, THE PRINCESS AND THE WOLF, there are scenes aboard a steamboat at that particular time and place.  Both scenes go into some detail on the very real danger of travel aboard these boats.  Another of my books that involves a steamboat is WHITE EAGLE’S TOUCH.  The Commerce of a growing Nation flowed over these rivers during this time period, and these boats provide a rich look at a by-gone river culture.

So I thought I’d post an excerpt that takes place aboard the steamboat, Effie Deans.  Enjoy!

BRAVE WOLF AND THE LADY

By

Karen Kay

An excerpt

 

The scent of fishy, muddy water overwhelmed all other odors in this place, Mia thought as she climbed the necessary stairway that allowed her to gain access to the highest point on the steamship. Every day, as had become her routine with Brave Wolf, she arose early so that she might welcome in the new day with prayer.  Ascending to the upper deck of the boat, she took up a position that looked eastward, toward the light, silver sky. Briefly, she said her prayer, then shifted her position, strolling toward the starboard side of the boat, gazing out westward. It was here on most every day that she hoped to see Brave Wolf, always wondering if he might still be out there, following the boat. Today was no different.

          The day was only beginning, yet already the warmth of the early morning sun beat down upon the top of her bare head, for she wore no hat. However, its heat did not bother her; the gentle wind that was created by the forward motion of the boat blew into her face, causing the loose tendrils of her hair to fall back behind her ears. It was a cooling breeze and it seemed kindly, animated, as if it endeavored to cleanse her spirit.

          But such friendliness was wasted on her. Her life had forever changed. Too much had happened in this last month to allow the naivety of her former life to regain a foothold over her again.

          Was such a shift of personality for the good, or was it bad? She couldn’t be certain.

          Where was Brave Wolf, she wondered. Then she answered her own question. He would be setting a trail for his home; he would be hastening back to the arms of another woman….

          Would Walks-in-sunshine welcome him home with love in her heart?       She would do so if she were wise. Trustworthy, honorable men like Brave Wolf didn’t happen along every day.

          “Ma’am,” hailed the captain, a Mr. Wentworth. He raised his hat to her as he stepped by her.

          Jerked back to the present moment, Mia smiled, hoping that the gesture covered her surprise. She had been so lost in her own thoughts, she hadn’t noticed the captain’s approach.

          “Ye look so sad, ma’am. But don’t ye fret. We’re only a couple of weeks out from Leavenworth. We’ll make it thar all safe and sound, don’t ye worry.”

          “Yes,” she replied, as she forced herself to look happy. “I believe that we shall.”

          “How did ye get yerself all stranded in this part of the country, ma’am, if’n ye don’t mind me askin’?”

          “I…my husband and I were part of a wagon train heading for the Oregon Territory when our party was attacked by—”

          “Injuns?”

          “No, sir, although I did think so at first. But the butchers turned out to be men dressed up as Indians. They killed my husband. Indeed, I fear that they murdered all the people on that train except me. I don’t believe that they saw me at first.”

          “But they did discover yerself?”

          “Undoubtedly, they did.”

          “Pardon, ma’am, but then how did ye escape? Did ye play dead until they left?”

          “No, sir. Real Indians came to my rescue.”

          “Real Injuns? Ma’am?” He grabbed his hat from his head and whacked it against his knee. “We’s at war with them Injuns in these here parts. Cain’t imagine one of ’em rescuing ye.”

          “I know. Yet, what I tell you is true. The man who bought that ticket from you is the same one who not only rescued me, but who brought me here so that I might return home.” She paused for a moment, then added, “I think, sir, that you might have cheated him regarding the cost of that ticket.”

          The accusation, though softly spoken, was met with silence, and she let the complaint stand without further explanation. Captain Wentworth seemed honestly surprised; however, at last he uttered, “I’m right sorry about that, ma’am. But I’m under orders t’ charge high enough fees so that them Injuns don’t beg an easy ride. I’ll return the full two hundred dollars to ye, ma’am.”

          “That would be most appreciated,” replied Mia, “for I lost all of my possessions at the wagon train fight. But, although I appreciate your kindness, please ease your mind. It is unnecessary. I have enough food to sustain me until we reach Fort Leavenworth, and my clothing washes well. Besides, once we arrive at Fort Leavenworth, I can send word to my father, who will ensure that I am taken care of and escorted home safely. Keep your money.”

          “No, ma’am. Couldna live with myself if’n I was to do that,” he said. “Wait here, ma’am, while I get yer two hundred dollars.”

          Mia nodded and watched Captain Wentworth’s departing figure as he disappeared down the stairs, taking two of them at a time. She breathed in deeply, and was about to lean out over the railing, when two incidents happened at once.

          A wet, nearly nude, but achingly familiar body knocked her to the deck at the same time a bullet whizzed by her. The whir of that discharge, and its ugly blast splintered the wood at the exact place where she’d been standing, its impact showering her and her rescuer with the sharp fragments.

          She screamed.

          “Stay down!” ordered Brave Wolf. She could do little more than that, for he lay over her, using his body to protect her. Only a single instant passed before another deadly shot shrieked past them, this one aimed lower than the first.

          Then came another round of gunfire, followed by a slight pause, then more of the same. On and on it roared, the howl of the noise and the racket going on for so many minutes that Mia felt as though the entire world were engulfed by the barrage. Suddenly, as quickly as it had started, it stopped. No shots. No backfire. Nothing.

          “He…reloading. Quick, follow me!”

          Brave Wolf plopped off of her, scooting onto the deck. Lying flat on his stomach, he used elbows and hips to inch forward; Mia followed, using the same manner of crawling, and could see an open cabin door ahead of them. This must have been his destination. But what followed next precluded all attempts to attain safety.

          A huge man, who might have been twice the size of Brave Wolf, fell upon her. She screamed, then again, and she kept on shrieking as he raised a knife. Even while she yelled out, “No,” she felt certain that this moment spelled the end of her life. It might have been true, too, but for an arm that came up to block that blow.

          “Go! Move! Run to cabin!” shouted Brave Wolf.

          But she couldn’t get away from the monster, for he held her down; he was probably three times her weight. She squirmed, she tried to get away, but she couldn’t shake him off her.

          What followed could only be an act of God, for it was humanly impossible. Yet, as she watched the events unfold, she saw Brave Wolf rise up as though with super-human strength; he picked up the man as though this two-hundred-and-fifty-pound bully weighed little more than a feather. Instantly, she was free, but it wasn’t over. Brave Wolf hurled the monster across the deck. The fiend’s weapon, his knife, fell to the deck, but not so the beast’s gun.

          As quick as an instant, the would-be assassin slid his pistol from his holster. He pointed it straight at her head, for she had not run away.

          In a fraction of a second, Brave Wolf executed a quick, high leap, landing on the assassin and pushing him down, forcing him into a sitting position. Taking hold of the man’s pistol-carrying arm, and forcing it high into the air, Brave Wolf ensured the bullet shot harmlessly into the sky. The two men wrestled with that gun, their muscles straining under the assault, and the struggle that waged between the two of them outlined every muscle in Brave Wolf’s body.

          Boom!  Crash!  Blast!

          What was that? It sounded as if it were an explosion on the below decks of the boat? Was it? Was the boat, itself, under attack?

          What could she do? How could she help? She couldn’t leave Brave Wolf to fight this monstrosity all on his own. Or should she?

          Was she in the way? Should she leave here as quickly as possible?

          But no. She couldn’t leave him, even though he had told her to. As she had often said to herself: whatever Brave Wolf’s fate might be, so too would be her own.

          This decided, she darted into action, and, sprinting toward the wrestling figures, she jumped up into a flying leap, and added her weight against the bully’s arm. The momentum of her fall caused the beastie’s grip to come apart and loosen. The pistol flew out of his grasp, but the firearm was cocked, and it fired as it hit the deck…

          …Away from them.

          In a show of power and brute force, the monster flung Brave Wolf off, and Brave Wolf rolled as he landed, coming up onto his feet, unsheathing his only weapon, his knife. Then, without even a fraction of a second passing, Brave Wolf hurled himself forward, attaching himself to the fiend’s backside, his knife at the bully’s throat. But the monster threw off Brave Wolf’s grip, and the knife fell harmlessly to the deck.

          It wasn’t finished, and what followed, Mia could hardly believe. Weaponless, Brave Wolf used feet, hands, fingers, teeth and his jaw as weapons. He spit, clawed, bit, scratched and threw his arms around the assassin’s neck while his nails bit into the brute’s face. Though the beast tried to shake him off, he couldn’t budge Brave Wolf.

          Mia watched, shocked, as Brave Wolf bested the man who was as big as a bear. Like a weasel, he scratched the swine, bit him, choked him and kicked him as he wrestled him to the ground. The bully couldn’t throw a punch; in fact, it looked as though he could hardly breathe. Already, his face was turning bright red, then it was blue.

          All at once, it was over. The monster drew his last breath. He flopped to the deck and lay there unmoving. Brave Wolf, however, didn’t wait to examine the result of this struggle for life or death. He grabbed up both his own, and the bully’s knife, seized her by the hand and sprinted toward the ship’s railing, dragging her with him as he fled port-side.

          Mia ran as fast as she could, though she was stunned, having never witnessed such a bare-handed, tooth-and-claw fight against such uneven odds. Brave Wolf was easily the smaller of the two men by a hundred or so pounds, yet he had won and…what was probably most astounding, she was still alive.

          Boom! Crash! Blast! Crack!

          Another explosion from the below decks shook the boat, and she realized the craft was blowing out from within. Huge bits of wood flew everywhere, the shower of deadly and heavy splintered logs a real threat. Worse, a massive fire licked to life only a few feet away from them; it was swiftly consuming the deck on which they stood. The floor was going to give.

          “Oh!” Mia gasped. Had Brave Wolf won the struggle, only to lose the war? If the floor beneath them gave, they would be swept below as it crumbled; they’d be impaled and crushed beneath fallen rubble and knife-like timber.

          Frightened into immobility, Mia could only stare. But not so Brave Wolf. He swept her up into his arms and sprinted around a corner, ignoring the deck crashing about them. He endured the burning heat, and somehow he kept ahead of the ever-rushing fire, veering toward the port side of the boat, the side away from the paddle wheel. Still holding her in his arms, he scrambled up onto the railing, and without hesitation, he knifed feet first into the river, taking her with him.

          Down, down they shot into the mildly cool and welcoming, but muddy water. Brave Wolf didn’t wait to touch bottom. Kicking out, he swam down deep underwater, heading north, away from the boat. A deadly tow pulled at him, yet he evaded it, and dove down deeper only to have a whirlpool tug at them, threatening to drown them. Yet it didn’t happen. Brave Wolf forded the underwater death trap with what appeared to be so much ease that one might have thought he were part merman. He held her by the waist now and pulled her along with him. Once he surfaced for air and she gasped in the needed oxygen; a bombardment of bullets met them from the shoreline, and he dove down, down deep, deeper, kicking out in a stroke that propelled them to the bottom of the river, swimming as fast as the water would allow him. She felt the path of a bullet as it nicked him, for it was to that arm where he held her. Although the shot didn’t draw blood, it must have stung him. But if it did, he showed no signs of feeling it.

           Faster they swam, she kicking out now to help him. North and east they fled, away from the deadly assassin bullets. But how long could she hold her breath? She felt as though she were turning blue, and she tapped Brave Wolf on the shoulder to indicate that she needed air. Once again, although this time more cautiously, he came up for breath, but he allowed her only a second to suck in that air before he dove back under the surface, knifing toward the very bottom of the river once again.

          Surprisingly no one appeared to be following them beneath the waves, and she was reminded of the danger of the deadly whirlpools, currents and underwater tows beneath the surface of the Big Muddy River. It had claimed many a man’s life. It had tried to take theirs. Was this why no one was giving chase?

          Those deadly traps confronted Brave Wolf over and over. She felt their pull, was certain she and Brave Wolf would never survive this. Yet, they did. How he managed to use these dangers to his advantage, she might never know, for he swam through the tows as though he danced a jig with them. They pushed onward, Mia having to remind Brave Wolf on more than one occasion that she needed to breathe air, not water.

          It felt as though hours had passed as they shot through these muddy depths, although it was probably not longer than minutes. Always it seemed to her that they headed north and, she hoped, out of range of those assassin’s bullets. She was aware that Brave Wolf could hold his breath longer than she could, and he seemed to forget that she was not part fish; many more times than she could count, she had to tap him on the shoulder as a reminder. At last, when they surfaced for air, it appeared that they had put enough distance between themselves, the shoreline and the steamship, for nothing met them but the smoke of a boat that would never sail the Missouri waters again.

          They both looked on at the wreckage, which was even now still afire.

          “Why did the boat explode?” she asked softly, more to herself than to Brave Wolf.

          But he answered her quickly, saying, “Man who try kill you use fire to blow up boat.”

          Shock caused Mia to remain silent, and, when she didn’t answer at once, Brave Wolf calmly dove again beneath the waves.

  BRAVE WOLF AND THE LADY

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Updated: August 6, 2018 — 11:08 pm