I know it’s only November first, but I am in that Christmas spirit because that’s kind of how publishing rolls, my friends and as the publishers roll… Well, so do the authors! And this author has some fun stuff to celebrate this fall…
First, my just released (non-cowboy!) book “At Home in Wishing Bridge“, the second book of my “Wishing Bridge” series, has been on the Amazon bestseller list for weeks and spent a lot of time at #1 so there is a reason to celebrate right there… and readers are loving it. And that makes authors the happiest of all.
And Love Inspired has re-issued this beautiful story from my “Kirkwood Lake” series. “The Lawman’s Holiday Wish is a story of old wrongs, quick judgments and slow healing… but when God gives us a whole new beginning… a beginning with three precocious five-year-olds… well, that’s the kind of Christmas dream we all love to see! Love Inspired doubled the fun by pairing me with Gail Martin and her book “The Christmas Kite”. You can find this on AMAZON, and in Walmart now!
But being a Western blog, let’s see if I can pull something out of my Christmas Stetson!
First, we’ve got an amazingly fun duo with my good Western buddy Linda Goodnight. I was blessed to be part of a novella duo with her… Western-and-cowboy-themed…. and so I was able to add a “Shepherd’s Crossing” novella to my series set in Western Idaho. The “Shepherd’s Crossing” series brings three Southern beauties… real Steel Magnolias… to a sheep ranch left to them by a benevolent uncle. And there just may be some rugged cowboys who know a good thing when they see it and have the brains enough to keep these girls well above the Mason-Dixon line… despite the cold and wind and snow. Shepherd’s Crossing… where love conquers all. Eventually. 🙂
This beautiful story pairs a single mother with a cowboy who’s spent a bunch of years alone… but Christmas isn’t just a season of miracles. It’s a season of family… friends… and second chances. And Ty Carrington gets his second chance in “Falling for the Christmas Cowboy” my half “A Cowboy Christmas”! And today I’ve got two copies of “A Cowboy Christmas” to send out this week (it’s catch up week on the farm now that pumpkin season is over!)… so you can win it before you can buy it! This book hits stores in two weeks… and on sale for Kindle December 1st!!! PREORDER HERE! (I can’t make it much plainer than that, can I, darlings???)
On sale nationwide in two weeks!
And then, for the historical lovers among us (of which I am one!) here is my historical novella Christmas collection “Christmas on the Frontier”.
This three-novella book takes you back to a simpler time… but faith, hope and love still ruled the day as we built this great nation.
Three great pioneer Christmas stories bring us back to a simpler time… maybe a holier time… a time before Christmas became synonymous with commercialism. A time when a baby in the manger was enough to make us bow our heads… take a knee… pray as one. A time to be grateful for the little things. A time when little was taken for granted because our very hold on life and liberty was tenuous back then and no one had the luxury to be jaded.
“Her Christmas Cowboy”, “A Town Called Christmas” and “His Beloved Bride” make up a wonderful collection from my heart… to yours.
I’m also giving away two Kindle copies of “Christmas on the Frontier” today…. to start your November off right.
Leave a comment about holidays below… what you love? What you don’t love! What makes you laugh or cry? Are you a Hallmark binge watcher? Or a binge reader? Are you Pinterest crazy? Or do you wing it with cookies from Wegmans or Harris Teeter and a Stouffer’s lasagna in the oven?
Because there’s value and joy in both ways!
Four winners today to kick off our Christmas season, then rejoin me in a month when we celebrate Christmas novellas here with the fillies… and I’ll be giving away copies again. Keepin’ it simple. Keepin’ it real. Keepin’ it prayerful in times of trouble…
“For unto you is born this day a Savior which is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign unto you. You will find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.” Luke 2, 11-12
Oh, those shepherds! Those angels!
Can you even imagine what that must have been like?
And today I get to kick of this holy and happy season with you! Bring on the eggnog, my friends! And the cookies. (Who doesn’t love cookies?) And let us rejoice together!
For some reason, I’ve always loved stories in which a hero or heroine helps the other one heal — either physically or mentally. I think it’s because there is a vulnerability, a tenderness when one person takes the time to help another heal, even though it might not be a quick or easy process. A lot of emotion and eventually love can be born out of those moments. I don’t know how many westerns I’ve read where the heroine has to help the loner/farmhand/gunslinger/you name it heal from some illness or wound. They’re alone in a cabin, quite possibly during a blizzard, and the forced intimacy of the space just lights a fire — whether a slow burn or a raging inferno — under their attraction.
So it was to this story trope that I gravitated for my new release, A Cowboy’s Kiss. There’s no trapped in a snowy cabin story thread, but my hero is a doctor in addition to having a ranching/cowboy background. Here’s the blurb:
When librarian Anna Kenner wakes up in the hospital, she’s stunned to learn that she’s been in a coma for a week, and her life has been turned upside down. Anna has always been quiet and self-reliant, but now she must ask for help. To make matters worse, the man she’s coming to rely on is a casual friend from high school, whom she always wished could be more. As Roman helps her recover, Anna wonders if this time she will be braver and have a different outcome—Roman in her arms.
Dr. Roman McQueen leads a busy life between his work at the hospital and his time spent at his family’s Montana ranch. And yet, he finds himself sitting night after night at Anna’s bedside reading her a mystery and hoping that somehow she knows that, even though she has no family, she is not alone. When Anna wakes and begins the long process of recovery, Roman finds himself by her side. He tells himself he’s being a friend even as he tries not to notice how her kindness, quiet wit and subtle beauty make him dream that someday they can have more.
Because this is the second in my Once Upon a Western series, it also has that tie to a classic fairy tale — this time Sleeping Beauty. Anna and Roman’s story falls more onto the slow burn end of the spectrum, first because, well, she’s in a coma. But even when she wakes up and even though she isn’t officially his patient, he has to be careful not to give the impression of any impropriety between a doctor and a hospital patient. But they do know each other, so at first their friendship builds even though each is attracted to the other. There are also things in her past that make her hesitant to act on her attraction to Roman, even after she’s back home. Still, no matter how much she might fight it, the pull between them is just too strong. They are just too right for each other. I’m smiling now just thinking about how I gradually brought these two together.
To find out more about this series or for buy links, check out my website.
Now I’d like to hear from you — do you like the healer story trope in romance? What are some of your favorite stories that have used this?
Hi, Kit Morgan here, and for those of you that don’t know, my little sister is a professional racehorse jockey. Marijo has been racing for as long as I can remember and made a life-long career out of it. She left high school early to start galloping at the track and train to become a jockey. Her love of horses drove her, not to mention a keen competitive nature. She has recently given up racing for something a bit safer, like training Hunter/Jumper horses. Ahem … anyway … this post isn’t about my sister, but about one particular race held in 1893. But hey, it’s hard to mention anything about horse racing without bringing her up!
In 1893 the western plains were largely settled. By now much of the land was farmed and fenced in. There were no more wild buffalo roaming the plains, no more Indian wars (for the most part) because the Native Americans had been moved to reservations. Telegraph wires were strung up everywhere and Telephone lines were quickly stretching west. The country was moving on and the wild west was dying out.
Then along came a race, one that started out as a gimmick. The brainchild of a crafty businessman named John Maher, (who by the way was one of the first to report from the scene of the Wounded Knee Massacre) devised the race as a way to draw attention to the tiny town of Chadron, Nebraska, which was struggling at the time. What started out as a mere gimmick, turned into something much more.
Hundreds of hard-bitten cowboys, both locals and those that rode in, wanted to be in the race that came to be known as The Great Cowboy Race. One fellow was a western outlaw and horse rustler! A desperado by the name of “Doc” Middleton. The race drew all sorts of folks to it, all eager to enter and win. The route spanned a thousand miles, beginning in Chadron and ending at Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West showground which was right next to the World’s Fair in Chicago. The prize? A new leather saddle, a golden Colt revolver, and a fat cash purse. The race took the entrants over the Nebraska Sand Hills, through the Iowa cornfields, across both the Missouri and Mississippi rivers and through the wheat fields of Illinois.
Driving them on was the truth of their own old age. As they rode they saw changes in the land. Changes that would keep growing, pushing out the old cowboy and his ways. Perhaps they could tell the boys that gawked at Model T Fords what it was like to race across the land on a horse, to have the country watching them. Regale the boys with stories of the old west when they, themselves, were young. They could tell them about the small towns of America, those along the race route, and how the blacksmiths would pound on their anvils, signaling the riders were coming. People lined the streets to watch them and shout encouragement. Boys especially cheered them on. Newspapers also covered the race, bringing to life the old west once more.
For one summer this race created an unforgettable image of the old west that would live on in the minds of many. Cowboys atop thundering horses, racing to their destination and carrying them into cowboy immortality.
And this is just one of the reasons I love to write westerns! Maybe it’s about time I wrote a story about a horse race, hmm?
How many of you remember the dance names that they are doing in this link? Can you believe that I do remember? The main one, I believe, is the Bird, and in the middle they switch briefly to the Jerk. Oh, how I loved those dances. Did you?
And how about one of their humorous songs: Bird Dog — just recently I was singing this song to my grandchildren, who laughed and laughed and laughed and couldn’t believe it was an actual song. So of course I had to find it online and play it for them: Love this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=US49tQbYsg0 — When men’s hairstyles defied gravity…
You might argue, that the Beatles are the 60’s — but oh, well, I can’t leave them out — they are probably the most inspirational band of all time.
Here are some of my other favorite Beatles songs: Love in the Open Air, by James Paul McCartney — A very under rated song that I believe might be the most beautiful song written in the last Century. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ir-Pl4szYOs
What, you might ask, does this have to do with Native American Romance? Well, perhaps a great deal, in several different ways. One is always searching for inspiring music to write by — I think we, as authors, often write to music. And for a lively scene, nothing beats the 50’s and 60’s music in my opinion. But there is also this little bit of fact: Did you know that the Native American Men who toured Europe mirrored the Romantic Inspiration and female response as that of many rock stars?
And why not? Many of those men were extraordinarily handsome. All these photos here are of a couple of the men who were with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show.
Well, that’s all for today. Come on in and leave a comment and let me know what you think.
As always, many of us writers are a bit busy and so we depend on your coming to the blog on Wednesday or Thursday to check to see if you are the winner of the Give-away.
And most of all, thank you for coming to the blog today. And then he kissed me.
‘Ordinary women at the edge of extraordinary change’
Appreciate your mistakes for what they are: precious life lessons that can only be learned the hard way. Unless it’s a fatal mistake, which, at least, others can learn from.
– Al Franken
I’m fascinated by what makes good people make horrible decisions. I mean, we’re all doing the best we can, given what we know at the time, right? I explore this theme in a lot of my books, but never more than in my December release, The Last True Cowboy.
Carly Beauchamp has loved cowboy Austin Davis since first grade. Ask anyone in their dusty, backwater New Mexico town of Unforgiven, and they’ll say, “Carly and Austin” the way some say, “big trucks and country boys.” But after years of waiting for a wedding ring, Carly’s done with being a rodeo widow. She dumps Austin (again), but after a month she’s a pressure cooker, ready to blow. She heads to Albuquerque, where she’s not half of the C&A franchise. No heartbroken, “poor Carly.” Just an anonymous chick in a generic country bar. There she meets a man with ice blue eyes in biker leathers. They have nothing in common—except heartbreak. They pour out their pain while pouring the booze.
Horror hits when Carly wakes alone, but vaguely remembers she didn’t go to sleep that way. She calls around, to find that her mystery man never existed. He lied. About his name, his job . . . everything. She takes a morning after pill and goes home, determined to put this huge mistake in the rear view mirror. And she manages—more or less—until the doctor confirms her pregnancy.
Austin never meant to put his career on the circuit before Carly. She’s always been his future, his one and only. But now that she’s moved on, he’s beginning to see where he went wrong, and he’ll do anything to win her back. The only thing is, Carly’s suddenly acting differently, and she’s definitely hiding a secret—one that will test the depth of their love and open up a whole new world of possibilities.
So what do you think, P&P readers? Have you ever made a mistake that seemed like a good idea at the time?
Laura is away print copies of Nothing Sweeter and Sweet on You to one lucky winner picked at random from those who leave a comment.
Book 1 of “Shepherd’s Crossing” series available right now nationwide! Walmart, Kroger, Winn Dixie, anywhere mass market paperbacks are sold!
Three steel magnolias….
Lizzie, Melonie and Charlotte Fitzgerald were raised in the lap of luxury. Dysfunctional luxury! The girls wanted for nothing growing up on the Fitzgerald’s highly regarded Kentucky horse farm. The granddaughters of a crazy rich publishing magnate, the motherless girls were raised by their African American nanny Corrie Satterly… But when their father inherited the publishing empire as print publishing began falling into disfavor, self-absorbed Tim Fitzgerald bilked the company for every last penny he could…
And left the country. And his girls.
Corporate bankruptcy took everything from the sisters, leaving them nothing but college loans and a car. The girls’ uncle bequeaths them with a portion of his beautiful western Idaho ranch, with one condition: They have to stay on the ranch for a year to gain their share… and maybe — just maybe– a reason to stay?
Heath Caufield, Tim Fitzgerald’s widowed ranch manager and a man who has a history with Lizzie Fitzgerald. A history he’s tried to put behind him, but when Lizzie shows up in western Idaho, Heath’s intentions are challenged not only by the past but by the present… and the hope of a future.
Jace Middleton, whose family helped settle the little town of Shepherd’s Crossing just north of Council, Idaho… but with the family land gone, and few jobs for this carpenter/cowboy, Jace has decided to move to Sun Valley. When an elderly woman reveals long-held secrets, Jace is stunned to realize he’s been living a lie. But there’s no time to languish because twin baby girls need him to be at the top of his game, and when the top of his game includes working side-by-side with interior designer Melonie Fitzgerald, Jace is pretty sure life couldn’t turn more upside down. And of course it does… but with God’s perfect timing, sometimes upside down is the only way to get things just right.
Isaiah Woods has enough on his plate. Breeder of prize Nez Perce Appaloosa horses, Isaiah is raising his niece and nephew as best he can after losing their parents to a tragic accident. But when old mistakes meet him head on, he must risk the love of his parents and members of his tribe to put things right… and he can only do that with Charlotte Fitzgerald’s help. And that just makes folks angrier.
Three Steel Magnolias…. three amazing cowboys…. and then BONUS! 🙂 “Falling for the Christmas Cowboy”!
Coming in November, a beautiful Shepherd’s Crossing Christmas novella!
A Christmas novella when Jessica Lambert takes over her aunt’s old house only to find out it was bought by Ty Carrington, part owner of Carrington Acres Ranch… but what kind of cowboy puts a single mother out on the streets during the holidays? And as Ty helps Jessica and “Dovie” Lambert get things straightened out, he realizes that there just might be a Merry Christmas after all. Done as part of a two-story anthology with the amazing Linda Goodnight! Happy dancing because I love working with Linda!!!
I love starting a new series, but what I really love is when I get knee deep into it, where I can feel the characters and setting evolve into what I want it to be once complete.
Now, working on book 4, the momentum of the previous stories helps set the pace for the new ones…
And gives me a cast of characters for the readers to laugh with… and sometimes cry over. And isn’t that the very best thing of all? A story that runs the gamut of emotions, and still leaves you happy.
And now I want to get to Idaho and see this beautiful land! I want to feel what it’s like to have Hell’s Canyon on one side (The Snake River gorge) and the Payette National forest on the other. To be shrouded from sunrises… and claim the sunset.
It’s an amazingly beautiful and still rugged region, ripe with Native American traditions of the Nimiipuu (Nez Perce) and a mix of people. And as outsiders swoop in and buy up ranch land, the demographic might change, but the love of Idaho. The mountains, the creeks, the forests, the wolves and coyote and deer… that will never change.
Some ranches have the strangest names but probably all mean something personal to the owner. The ones I put in my stories all reflect the owner’s state of mind or what they value. Some that I see when I drive down the road leave me scratching my head though. Like the Dime Box and Hoof Prints ranches.
In the anthology Give Me a Texas Cowboy, Jack’s Bluff was the name of the ranch in mine and Phyliss Miranda’s stories. Jack, one of Tempest LeDoux’s many husbands, won the ranch after buffing in a card game. I thought it was perfect.
Here are others I’ve used:
Sullivan – A Texas Christmas
Long Odds – Texas Mail Order Bride
Last Hope – Twice a Texas Bride
Wild Horse – Forever His Texas Bride
Lone Star – Men of Legend series
Aces ’n Eights – Knight on the Texas Plains and To Catch a Texas Star
Each one tells a lot about the owner. Duel McClain in Knight on the Texas Plains and To Catch a Texas Star named his ranch for the poker hand he won Marley Rose with and he doesn’t ever want to forget the miracle of how she changed his life.
To Catch a Texas Star is a story of hope, forgiveness, self-discovery, and vanquishing evil. Marley Rose is on her way into town when she finds a man bleeding and unconscious by the side of the road. Roan Penny has seen the worst of humanity, but Marley and the McClain family restores his faith. As he recovers he falls in love with the dark beauty he calls his Texas Star and longs to make a life with her. But evil from the past finds them. Will it destroy the happiness Roan and Marley have found?
The book released on July 3 and is available everywhere in bookstores and online.
Here are a few of the old Texas ranches still in operation not far from me:
Tongue River Ranch
Matador Land and Cattle
Yellow House Ranch
How about you? Can you name a ranch either in books/TV shows/movies, or that you’ve seen or heard about? I’m giving away one copy (winner’s choice of format.) Comment to enter the drawing to be held on Saturday, August 4. Giveaway Guidelines.
Hello Petticoats & Pistols! I am honored to help Linda Broday by joining you today. (Have fun at RWA, Linda!) For those you don’t know me, or may have forgotten, I’m western romance author, Julie Lence, blogging about a subject I knew nothing about and had fun researching: Mules Working in the Coal Mines.
In the summer of 2016, the Pastor of our church retired and our other priest was transferred to a different parish. We welcomed a new Pastor and another priest and looked forward to getting to know them. During their sermons, each priest will sometimes mention something from their childhood or personal experience to tie into the day’s Gospel. One such Sunday, one of them began talking about mules living in coal mines. My first thought was comical, and my second thought was this would make for a great blog. I’ve never heard of a mule living in a coal mine and wrote a quick note to research.
Throughout civilization horses and mules have been used to help man with lifting or hauling something heavy. This practice was carried over in Montana when it came to working in a coal mine. Pulling carts laden with ore was hard labor for man, so mules were brought down into the mines to help. Horses couldn’t be used, as the cages used to get to the bottom of the mine were small. A typical cage proved difficult trying to cram in six men, but could hold one mule. To get the mule onto the cage and to the bottom required a few days planning. The initial step involved not feeding the mule or giving him water for three days because there was a risk the mule would succumb to a ruptured bladder or suffocation while being lowered. Before being led into the cage, the mule was blindfolded so he wouldn’t spook and his legs were bound in a leather truss to keep him still. The mule was placed inside the cage on his rear and lowered to the bottom. Sometimes, he tried to kick, but usually he settled down to the quiet of the mine and rode the cage just fine.
Once down at the bottom, mules were put to work pulling the ore carts. They worked their eight-hour shift and then were taken to a lit stable inside the mine for food and rest. Muleskinners cared for the animals, and along with their food, made sure the mule had a tub of ice water to drink each night. The muleskinner also scrubbed the mule’s hooves with soap and water to rid him of the deadly copper water he plodded through during the day. The copper was capable of eating away at the hoof and if this happened, the mule would end up useless.
Mules adjusted well to the mines, with many knowing the mine better than the minors. Tales abound of many a mule saving miners from fires and other dangers. One such tale involved a miner who made a hole through a wall the size of his head to see what was on the other side. He discovered a lake but thought nothing of it until the next day. His mule began acting strange, and cutting him free from his job, the mule took off for higher ground. Knowing a mule’s instinct was good, the minor and his coworkers were able to escape quickly when, at the same moment the mule dashed off, the hole the miner had made crashed open, with water gushing toward them from the lake.
Though a mule labored beneath the ground, he wasn’t left there his entire life. If a mule was injured or sick, he was brought above ground immediately. The same applied to the duration of the mine shutting down for vacation or the miners going on strike. And mules weren’t treated cruelly. Miners and mule skinners learned early on to care for the mule. If treated poorly, the mule usually got even with either kicking a man in the ribs or head, or squeezing him against the wall. Trained mules were valuable, worth as much as $200, and always received medical treatment and rubdowns when needed.
The use of mules in mines pulling ore carts came to an end in December of 1965. An Act of Legislature outlawed the underground stable, making it illegal to house animals in mines.
Thank you for taking time out of your day to stop by and read about the mules. They truly were exceptional in that time period. To connect with me and learn more about my writing, you can catch me here:
As an added bonus, I’m giving away 3 ebook copies of my 1st book, Luck of the Draw. To be eligible to win, leave a comment here regarding your favorite thing about the old west. Until next time, have a great day.
After I turned in my last book, Once Upon A Texas Christmas (just a little over a year ago), I took a bit of a sabbatical from writing. The line I wrote seventeen books for was closing and I was also a bit burned out from writing 2 books a year for the previous four years (I’m not a fast writer so this was a ‘stretch’ pace for me).
So I was at a crossroads of sorts. I took some time thinking about where I wanted to go next, free from the constraints of any specific publisher guidelines. I eventually came up with ideas for several multi-book series I could get excited about and worked up some details to hand over to my agent so she could begin shopping them around to publishers.
That done, I figured while I waited I now had time to explore another path that had captured my interest, that of indie-publishing. I had several books from my days with Dorchester’s Leisure Books line that were published in the 2001-2005 time frame, long before the eBook revolution and that had gone out of print more than a dozen years ago and I figured reworking one of those and indie-publishing it would be a good way to ease myself into that scary-to-me world. So I went to work, getting ready to do just that.
And boy has it been a learning experience. Revising the book was the fun part. I’d forgotten just how much I loved those early books. Revisiting the characters and worlds from my early writing days has been an absolute joy. But now I’ deep into the business side of the process – hiring a good editor, figuring out cover design options, creating a back cover blurb, forming an LLC, obtaining ISBNs, etc., etc. It’s been a steep learning curve (and I’m not through it yet!) but hopefully next time will be a little easier.
Anyway, if things go as planned, this first book, which I’m titling The Unexpected Bride, will release in late fall. And today I thought I’d whet your appetite with an excerpt.
The set up for this story – Elthia Sinclare has travelled from Massachusetts to Texas in answer to an ad for a temporary job as governess. Caleb Tanner placed an ad for a mail-order bride. This is the scene where our heroine realizes there has been a terrible mistake:
“Mr. Tanner, we need to talk.”
The lying, scheming blackguard glanced back from his position at the stove, a scowl of irritation on his face. Then his expression changed as something in her demeanor caught his attention.
“What’s happened?” he asked, handing a plate to one of the children.
Zoe slipped into the room behind her, but Elthia kept her gaze focused on Mr. Tanner. She stood stiffly, fighting the urge to back away as he approached. “Exactly why did you bring me here?”
His scowl returned as he rubbed the back of his neck. “What do you mean? This is my home. Where else would I take you?”
“I’m talking about what role it is you expect me to fulfill?” She watched him closely, looking for some sign of guilt or duplicity. “Mrs. Johnston called me your helpmeet and referred to you Tanners as my ‘new family’. Just now, Dr. Adams did the same.”
Elthia clasped her hands to prevent their trembling. Had this man lured her to his home under false pretenses? She was completely at his mercy here. The isolated location and the shadowy approach of dusk suddenly took on a sinister feel. Sometimes having a vivid imagination was more of a curse than a blessing.
She had to remain calm, to think, to keep him from seeing her fear.
Mr. Tanner, however, looked more harried than threatening. Maybe Zoe had misread the situation. Dear God please–-
“I’m sorry that your role as a mail-order bride is public knowledge, if that’s what this is all about. It’s hard to keep secrets in a community like Foxberry.”
“Mail-order bride!” Elthia almost choked on the words. Heaven help her, this nightmare kept getting more unbelievable.
His scowl returned. “Miss Sinclare, stop the hysterics, please. I know the kids’ illness was unexpected, but surely—”
“There’s been a mistake, a dreadful, terrible mistake.”
His eyes narrowed. Then he looked at the children who watched the grown-ups with wide-eyed interest. “Let’s move this discussion to the parlor, shall we?”
He nodded to the two older children. “Zoe and Peter, you help the others with their supper please.” Then he took Elthia’s arm and all but pulled her out of the room.
As soon as they reached the parlor, he released her, as if touching her were distasteful. His next words were all the more intimidating for their softness. “Backing out already? So much for all that talk about honoring commitments.” His expression branded her as beneath contempt. “I should have known a pampered bit of high-class fluff wouldn’t have a notion about honor or responsibility.”
Elthia shook her head, confused and defensive. “No, no, you don’t understand. I came here to fill the post of governess, not to be someone’s mail-order bride.”
The sound he made was suspiciously like a snort. “Foxberry has a great school. Why would I waste money on a governess?”
“But that’s what you advertised for. I read the file myself.” A spurt of anger momentarily replaced her fear. “How dare you misrepresent yourself in such a way! You took advantage of Mrs. Pembroke and of me. It’s vile and probably illegal. I have half a mind to find the local sheriff and have you arrested.”
Mr. Tanner wasn’t intimidated. “I didnot misrepresent anything. I made it very clear to the agency exactly what I was looking for. If you paid any attention at all to my post there’s no way you could be confused about any of this.”
She drew in a breath as he pointed a finger, stopping just short of poking her chest.
His frown turned contemptuous. “If this is some ploy to get out of the contract and still be able to hold your head up, don’t bother. A weak, spoiled, lady with a tendency to run away from her troubles might be the last thing I want for the kids or myself, but I warned you earlier, no backing out once the kids met you.”
“How dare you! Why I—”
“I’d appreciate it if you’d keep your voice down,” he interrupted. “There’s no point in upsetting the kids.”
He straightened. “I don’t have time for this posturing. If you’re not going to help, at least stay out of the way. In the meantime, before you try that ‘I didn’t know what I was getting into’ story again, you should reread that contract you signed.”
Elthia watched him stalk out of the room. Slumping, she steadied herself with a hand to a chair. The long day and its emotional ups and downs had taken its toll. She suddenly felt too exhausted to think straight. Maybe her father was right. Maybe she was too helpless, too naïve, to make her own decisions.
How had this happened? Was Mr. Tanner a villain or had there been a terrible mix-up with the paperwork at the agency?
Of course. He’d told her to reread the contract and that’s just what she’d do, and then force him to do the same. She wasn’t her father’s daughter for nothing. She’d read that sheet of paper very carefully before signing it. It was an employment contract for a temporary teaching assignment, nothing more.
Feeling her energy rebound, she hurried into the hall. Her copy lay somewhere in her luggage, but he still had the one she’d given him. “Mr. Tanner, just a minute please.” Stepping into the kitchen, she ran smack into his rock-solid chest.
He placed a hand on both of her arms, steadying her before stepping back a pace. “Well, Miss Sinclare, what is it now?”
Elthia’s cheeks heated but she held onto what dignity she could. Pushing her glasses up on her nose, she managed to keep her gaze locked to his as she held out a hand. “The contract, sir. I’d like to see your copy of it if I may.”
He raised an eyebrow. “And just what do you expect that to prove?” Then he scowled. “I warn you, don’t try to tear it up.”
She raised her chin. “Why would I want to tear it up? It’s the proof I need to support my story. It states quite clearly that the position I accepted was that of governess.”
“Does it now?”
Elthia frowned impatiently. “Yes, of course it does. You read it there at Whistling Oak. Surely you remember what it said. There was nothing at all vague about the terms.”
“I agree, it spells things out in very plain language.” He strode out of the room and she followed him as far as the foot of the stairs. It only took seconds for him to return and hand her the document.
Elthia, itching to rub the I’m-only-doing-this-to-humor-you expression from his face, unfolded it and skimmed it.
Then she blinked.
She read it twice. Where had this contract come from? It most definitely was not the document she’d read so carefully before signing. Someone had switched papers, but when and how? They’d hardly been out of her sight since she’d signed them.
It must have been Mr. Tanner. He’d somehow substituted the document she’d handed him for this one. Her gaze frantically turned to the bottom of the contract and she got another shock.
It couldn’t be!
There was her name, penned in her own handwriting. Alongside it was the signature of Louella Pembroke. It must be a forgery, but it was such a good one even she couldn’t tell the difference.
How dare he try to coerce her this way. She shook the document under his nose. “How did you do this?”
“Do what?” He looked more puzzled than guilty.
“Forge my signature so perfectly. Did you trace it? And where’s the real contract?”
His jaw tightened and his eyes narrowed at her accusation. “Don’t you think you’re carrying this charade a bit far?”
“Don’t think you can intimidate me with that oh so superior tone. I have my own copy of the contract.”
She turned and all but fled upstairs. If he thought he could bully her with this elaborate act he was very much mistaken. It took her a several minutes, but she finally located her copy in the larger of her trunks.
Marching back down the stairs, she found Mr. Tanner still standing where she’d left him, though now the lamps in the hall were lit against the encroaching darkness.
She waved the paper triumphantly. “This is the document I signed, not that substitute you’re trying to fob off on me.”
With the air of an adult humoring a child, the infuriating Mr. Tanner plucked it from her fingers, pulled the contract out of the sealed envelope and looked it over quickly.
After reading it, he shrugged and handed it back to her. “I won’t argue with you on that score. But I don’t rightly see how it differs from the one I looked at earlier.”
Her hands starting to tremble, Elthia took the contract and forced her eyes to focus on the print. He was right, it was identical to the one he’d handed her a few minutes earlier.
A very simple, very binding, marriage contract.
There you have it. I hope you enjoyed the sneak peek. And stay tuned – I’ll keep you posted on my progress 🙂