If you could have dreamed up the ideal way to wake up this morning, what would that have been like? No alarm clock, thick drapes to keep the room pleasantly dark, so you could have slept in until you felt rested and fabulous? Keep going. What else? A feather-stuffed mattress beneath you? Warm quilts curled snugly under your chin? A hunky man with a lazy grin bringing you fresh éclairs and hot coffee or cocoa?
In Faith’s Reward, Jessica Hale Bennett probably wishes she could have enjoyed just such a morning….
Honey Lake Valley, Northern California
Jessica Bennett jolted upright in bed, her hand trembling as it searched the cold sheets in the darkness beside her. Her fingers brushed Jake’s equally cold pillow, then the soft fur of the cat that huddled on it, the only trace of warmth in the place where her husband had gone to sleep beside her. “Jake?”
Wind rattled the windowpane with nearly enough force to crack it. The wintry cold had seeped through the glass and turned the bedroom to ice. Jess hugged her flannel nightgown firmly to her and sat still and alert, straining to hear over the storm for any indication of movement in the house, either upstairs or down. She heard no thud of boot heels on the plank floor, no jingle of spurs to suggest any presence inside the house but hers.
Judging by the thick darkness, dawn was still hours away. Though she and Jake had worked until sometime after midnight, until they were both exhausted, he must have rested in bed until she had fallen asleep, but no longer than that. Once he had been certain she and the baby within her were at rest, he must have gone back to work and joined the next shift of cattlemen who fought to keep their horses and cattle alive, digging them out of the snow and providing hay to stimulate their bodies’ heat.
The misty darkness abruptly grew darker, closing in around her.
An image flashed through her mind—she stood in boot-deep snow under a gray sky, a Henry rifle gripped in her hands. At her sides stood two of the cattlemen. More than a dozen Paiute Indian men stepped forward to stand alongside them. She recognized one Paiute who worked at the ranch. The others were strangers. Their faces revealed fear, and resolve. In front of her, perhaps five paces away, stood thirty or more renegade white men who, as one, reached their hands to their holsters, drew their guns, then took aim at Jess and the Indians. Jess cocked the Henry rifle, pressed the butt to her shoulder, and sighted down the barrel at the cold, glittering blue eyes of the man who aimed the bore of his revolver at her. Though fear burned like liquid fire beneath her skin, she firmed her grip, shifted her index finger from the rifle’s trigger guard to the curve of the metal trigger. And pulled.
The hot coffee, cocoa, and fresh éclairs are sure sounding better, aren’t they? Fortunately, Jess is married to a hunky man with a lazy grin, and you’ll see that she has plenty of ideal mornings, and the love of a good man who will risk his life for her…and for whom she will risk herself.
Faith’s Reward, book three of The Sierra Chronicles trilogy, hits the shelves January 4, 2011! For more details, and to enter to win “The Day of Your Dreams” contest, visit http://www.tammybarley.com/Bookshelf.html.