The Outlaw’s Return is special to me for a couple reasons. J.T. Quinn is doing the hardest thing a person can do. In spite of instincts to the contrary, he’s trying to be a better man. It’s not easy when you have a past like his. The other reason I love this book is Fancy Girl. She’s J.T.’s dog, and she’s got a way with children. The pub date is February 8th, so today I’m giving away three advance copies. To be entered in the drawing, just leave a comment. For fun, tell us about your favorite dog or cat or any other critter that’s made you smile.
Here’s an excerpt . . .
The Outlaw’s Return
When J.T. Quinn vowed to find Mary Larue, he never once imagined they’d meet on a perfect Sunday morning in Denver. On those long nights when he’d lain alone in his bedroll, he’d imagined seeing her on a stage in some high class opera house. He’d pictured himself in a black suit and a white shirt leaning against the back wall with his arms crossed as he listened to her hit the high note only she could hit. Their eyes would meet and she’d recognize him. She’d miss a beat, but she’d pick up the song with even more power than before and he’d know . . . she still loved him.
That wasn’t going to happen today.
It wasn’t Saturday night, and J.T. wasn’t wearing a suit.
It was Sunday morning, and he had trail dust in every pore. He also smelled like the inside of a saloon. He hadn’t visited such an establishment for six months, but last night he’d walked past a gaming hall with a head full of memories. A drunken cowhand had stumbled out to the boardwalk with an open bottle of whiskey, and the contents had sloshed on J.T.’s trousers. The smell had sickened him in one breath and tempted him in the next. He’d have changed clothes, but the garments in his saddlebag were filthy. They stank, but not with whiskey. He’d resisted that temptation, and he’d done it because of his love for Mary Larue.
Heaving a sigh, he looked down at his dog. “What should we do, Fancy Girl?”
She whapped her tail against the boardwalk and looked up at him with her tongue lolling out the side of her mouth. J.T. didn’t know what kind of dog she was, but they’d been best friends since he’d walked out on Griff Lassen at the Dudley place. They’d been running off Ambrose Dudley and his brother, squatters up in Wyoming, when the dog had charged at them and started barking. Griff had ordered J.T. to shoot her dead.
J.T. had done a lot of mean things in his life, but not even he could shoot a dog. On the other hand, he’d come close to shooting Griff. When the man aimed his Sharps at the mutt, J.T. had shoved the barrel downward. The bullet had ricocheted off a rock and creased Fancy Girl’s head. J.T. had mopped her blood with his bandanna and fed her jerky from his pocket. When she’d followed him to his horse, he’d poured water from his canteen into a pot. She’d lapped every drop, and he’d filled it again.
He’d left the Dudley place with the job undone and Griff promising to get even, but the dog had followed him. That night he’d named her Fancy Girl because her fur reminded him of Mary’s blond hair, and he’d made a decision. He didn’t want to be the kind of man who hunted squatters and shot at dogs.
For the past ten years, J.T. had sold his gun for money. He’d been nineteen when he’d sold his gun for the first time, and next month he’d turn thirty. For a gunslinger, he had a lot of years on him. Today, standing outside a saloon and listening to Mary sing, he thought back on those years. He’d drunk oceans of whiskey and been with too many women. The whiskey had never failed to work its magic. The women, though, had lost that power and it was because of Mary.
She’d been in his head for two years now, ever since Kansas where they’d been a pair and she’d made him smile. Really smile. Not the sneer he usually wore. And not because she was generous with her affections. Mary made him smile because she believed he was a good man. He wasn’t, but after the mess at the Dudley place, he wanted to try. Leaving that day with Fancy Girl, he’d decided to find Mary and make a new life. He had some money saved, enough to open a saloon, a place where she could sing and live the life she’d always wanted. He didn’t plan to marry her. He’d changed, but not that much. Picking up where they’d left off seemed noble enough.
He and Fancy Girl had been searching for six months, and he’d finally caught a break. He hadn’t touched a woman or a drop of whiskey since the mess in Wyoming, but he still had to eat. Last night he’d taken supper at the boardinghouse where he was staying with his dog. One of the boarders, an old man with bad eyes, had told him about a woman named Mary who sang like a nightingale.
You’ll find her tomorrow morning at Brick’s Saloon.
Not once had it occurred to J.T. that Mary would be singing a hymn in a makeshift church. His mind had gone in the opposite direction. He’d imagined her finishing up a night’s work that involved more than singing. He’d been sick to think she’d fallen so low, but in the next breath he’d been relieved. No matter what Mary had done to survive, he still loved her. He wouldn’t wish her the suffering of selling herself, but he rather enjoyed the thought of riding to her rescue . . .
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I hope you enjoy J.T.’s story. The book will be available February 8, 2011. Good luck in the drawing!