I’m so excited for the release this month of the fourth book in my Wishing, Texas Series, To Marry A Texas Cowboy. Mark your calendar. September 28th is the day Zane Logan’s story arrives.
Zane is the playboy in this group of heroes. Women fall at his feet, and there’s never been one he couldn’t handle. Do you see trouble coming? Of course you do, and you’d be right. Here’s an excerpt from To Marry A Texas Cowboy. I hope you enjoy it, and don’t forget to mark your calendar.
“Are you okay?” Mr. Stop Traffic asked, stepping into the light. She must have showered him with champagne because his shirt lay plastered against his chest, revealing his well-defined abs. Oh, my. His chest looked as wonderful as his face.
“I need to get to the generator,” McKenna said, but she’d no sooner gotten the words out when the lights came on.
“What happened? There’s blood smeared on your face and sleeve, and your nose is swollen.”
McKenna resisted the urge to groan, his comment obliterating all her feminine warm fuzzy feelings. While she was thinking about how dreamy he was, he’d been worried about her bloody, swollen nose. She should’ve known something practical accounted for his interest.
“Something hit my nose when the lights went out.”
“Bet it was the cork from my champagne bottle. It got away from me when the lightning hit.” He glanced around. “Mrs. Severance, you’re a nurse. Come check this out.”
Thanks. Call more attention to the fact that I got hurt and probably resemble a rodeo clown, while you, dripping wet with champagne look…marvelous.
McKenna smiled and waved the older woman off. “No need. I’m fine.”
“If you’re sure,” Mrs. Severance replied.
She nodded as Mr. Stop Traffic moved past her, lifted a glass, and filled it with water from a nearby pitcher. Next, he grabbed a napkin, dunked the square into the water, and returned. Increasingly embarrassed and fighting the urge to run, McKenna reached for the napkin, but he pushed her hand away. “You’ll only smear it more.”
His brows furrowed in concentration as he wiped the blood from her face. His green eyes held tiny flecks of gold, making them almost sparkle. He had the most mesmerizing eyes. Paul Newman, never-forget kind, except in green instead of blue. Her breath caught in her chest. She couldn’t think. Oh dear. No man had ever sent such a warm rush of pleasure pulsing through her before. Not even during sex.
“You need medical attention. Your nose is really swollen.”
His words obliterating her sexual feel-good haze, she leaned forward, kept a smile on her face, and whispered, “Stop saying how swollen my nose is. I’ll deal with it later. Right now, I need to do my job.” Then she straightened and announced, “I’m fine, everyone. If I wasn’t, I’d say so. Now let’s get this party back on track and toast the happy couple.”
She placed her empty bottle in the tub and selected another. This one she opened before handing it to him. “Pour. Everyone’s waiting.”
“Hey, Zane,” came Ty’s voice again from the dance floor, “everyone okay back there? You about got that champagne poured?”
McKenna froze. Zane? While that wasn’t a common name, it wouldn’t be unheard of for two men named Zane to be in attendance tonight.
Right, and if you believe that then you’ve got less brains than God gave a fruit fly.
“Don’t get your britches in a knot, Ty. We’ll be ready for the toast in a minute,” Zane replied.
No, she couldn’t have done what it appeared she had—assumed her boss’s grandson was temporary hired help, ordered him around, and spilled champagne all over him.
This man couldn’t be Ginny’s grandson, the video game designer from Los Angeles, because nothing about this man said California. He was all Texas, including Wrangler jeans, a crisp black western shirt, a silver oval belt buckle with Texas written in the center, and freshly polished cowboy boots.
Despite the evidence, she had to be certain. “You’re not Ginny’s grandson Zane, are you?”
“The one and only.”
Despite their awkward first encounter, when Zane takes charge of his grandmother’s wedding planning business and becomes McKenna’s temporary boss, she doesn’t let him run roughshod over her. Zane doesn’t know quite what to do with a woman he can’t impress, and there are plenty of fireworks.
Today’s giveaway is a signed copy of book 3 in the Wishing, Texas series, To Tame A Texas Cowboy, and an insulated cup, Less Monday More Summer. Since Zane steps in to run his grandmother’s wedding planning business, to be entered in the random drawing leave a comment what you enjoy most about weddings, a wedding trend you like, detest or just don’t understand.
Big news! At least for me. THE EAGLE AND THE FLAME has just been released. Am not going to say too much about it, except to say to be sure to leave a comment, cause I’ll be giving away a free e-book to one of you bloggers.
This is a rather long excerpt (Prologue and First 2 Chapters). So without further ado, here is the blurb and excerpt (prologue and first two chapters). Please enjoy!
THE EAGLE AND THE FLAME, by Karen Kay
A vision foretold his tribe’s doom. Is the flame-haired beauty the trickster or his true love?
Lucinda Glenforest’s father, a general who’d fought in the Indian Wars, taught his flame-haired daughter to out-shoot even the best men the military could put up against her. When Luci’s sister is seduced and abandoned, it’s up to Luci to defend her honor in a duel. Although she wins, the humiliated captain and his powerful family vow vengeance. The sister’s only hope is to flee and hide until their father returns from his overseas mission. Out of money, Luci hatches a plan to disguise herself as a boy and use her sharpshooting skills in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show.
The chief of the Assiniboine tribe has a terrifying vision, that someone called the deceiver, or trickster, spells doom for the children of his tribe. He enlists Charles Wind Eagle to join Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, in hopes of appealing to the President of the United States for help, and to find and stop the deceiver. When Wind Eagle is paired with a girl whom he knows is disguised as a boy, he believes she might be the deceiver. Still, she stirs his heart in ways he must resist, for he has a secret that can never be told, nor ignored. And Luci can never forget that her father would destroy Wind Eagle if she were to fall in love with him.
Forced to work together, they can’t deny their growing attraction. Will Luci and Wind Eagle find a way through the lies to find true love? Or will they be consumed by the passion of deception and slander?
Warning: A sensuous romance that might cause a girl to join the rodeo in order to find true love.
The Wild West Series
The Assiniboine Sioux Reservation
“Run! Run to them! Help them!”
Ptehé Wapáha, Horned Headdress, couldn’t move. It was as though his feet were tied to the ground with an invisible rope. He attempted to lift his feet one at a time. He couldn’t. Bending, he struggled to remove the shackles that held him prisoner. It was impossible.
Straightening up, he looked down into the Assiniboine camps from his lofty perch upon a hill, and he watched as a cloud of dust and dirt descended from the sky to fall upon the children of the Assiniboine. Helpless to act, he stared at the scene of destruction as each one of the children fell to the ground, their bodies withering to dust. Still, he stood helpless, unable to act in their defense. He heard their cries, their pleas for aid. He reached out to them, he, too, crying. But he couldn’t move; he couldn’t save them.
The cloud lifted. The children were no more; their bones had returned to the earth. Instead, in their place arose a people who appeared to be Assiniboine outwardly, but within their eyes, there showed no spark of life. They appeared to be without spirit, without heart; they were broken—mere slaves.
From the cloud of dirt came the sound of a whip as the people cowered beneath its assault. Then arose the lightning strikes and the thunder. One by one even those soulless people fell to their knees—a conquered people, their heads bowed in fear.
And, then they were no more. All was lost; all was gone.
What force was this? Who or what was this faceless power that had killed the Assiniboine people and their children? He knew it not.
He cried, his tears falling to the ground, but even the essence of this, his body’s grief, was barren. His proud people were no more.
Jerking himself awake, Ptehé Wapáha, Horned Headdress, chief of the Rock Mountain People, sat up suddenly. His sleeping robes fell around him and sweat poured from his body. Tears fell from his eyes as he came fully into the present moment.
At once, he realized that what he had seen had been a mere dream, and, while this might have comforted a lesser being, Horned Headdress knew that there was more to the nightmare. It was a vision, a warning from the Creator: this was what would come to pass if he and his people didn’t act. And now.
But, what was he to do? He didn’t know who this enemy was.
It was then that, wide awake, he beheld a vision unfolding before him as the Creator spoke to him in the language of the sacred spider. And, as the spider weaved his web, pictures of a future time appeared upon that maze, as though it were a backdrop for the images.
Astonishment and fear filled his soul. But, he soon came to realize that the Creator had not warned him in vain, for, upon that same web appeared visions of deeds that would thwart that future evil, if he could but do them.
He must act, and with speed. This he vowed he would do. But how? He was no longer a young man, conditioned to the rigors that would be required. He could not perform the skills necessary to accomplish what must be done.
But there are two youths among our people who can. The thought came to him as though it were his own, but he realized that the words were from the Creator. Moreover, he saw with his mind’s eye, that there were, indeed, two young men who were strong enough and proficient enough to undertake this task.
With a calmness of purpose, Horned Headdress knew what he would do, what he must do….
“Our way of life is endangered, and our people might well be doomed, I fear—all our people—unless we act.”
Twenty-year old, Wa?blí Taté, Wind Eagle, of the Hebina, the Rock Mountain People of the Nakoda tribe, listened respectfully to his chief, Horned Headdress. The chief held an honorable war record, was honest beyond reproach and was known to be wise at the young age of fifty-two years. On this day, Wind Eagle and his ?óla, Iron Wolf, were seated in council within the chief’s spacious sixteen-hide tepee. There were only the three of them present: Horned Headdress; himself, Wind Eagle; and Macá Mázasapa, Iron Wolf, the chief’s son.
“The White Man is here to stay,” continued Horned Headdress. “Many of our chiefs speak of this. Already we have seen changes that are foreign and confusing to us, for their customs are not ours. I have asked you both to this council today because I have dreamed that our people will not long exist if we do not act as a united people. But allow me to explain.
“As you both are aware, the annuities, promised so easily in treaty by the White Father, did not arrive this past winter to replace the hundreds-of-years-old food source, the buffalo. Because of this, too many of the young and the old did not survive the harsh snows and winds that inflicted wrath upon this country; a worse winter cannot be remembered, not even by the very old. All our people are grieved, for every family amongst us lost loved ones, and, I fear that if we do not become like the beaver and act in a fast and well-organized manner, we, as a people, will perish from the face of this earth.
“The Indian agent is partly to blame for this; he put us at a terrible disadvantage, for our men of wisdom and experience, who have always ensured that our people remain alert to future dangers, were rounded up and placed in an iron cage that the agent calls jail. He used Indian police to do this; they were young men from our tribe who listened to this agent’s poisonous tongue, and, feeling they knew best for our people, acted for the agent and not us. They helped him to disarm us, not realizing that their people had need of their guns and their bows and arrows not only to defend their families, but to hunt for food. Later, these same young men lamented their actions, for they learned too late that the Indian agent is not our friend.
“Some of our young men, like yourselves, escaped by hiding until the danger passed. Then, stealing away into the night, these men left to find food and bring it back to supply us with needed rations. But in many cases, the food arrived too late, and the evil face of starvation caused the death of too many of our people.
“We have heard this agent laugh at our plight, but what are we to do, for we have no one else to speak for us to the White Father? We chiefs have spoken often of this matter and have pondered who among us might seek out the White Father and express our grievances.
“Recently I received a vision from the Creator. I have now seen that the danger is not in the past; I have learned that our children have a terrible fate and we might lose them all if we remain here and do nothing to change our future.”
Wind Eagle nodded solemnly; no words were spoken, as befit the purpose of this council.
“I believe I know what must be done,” continued Horned Headdress. “I have seen in vision that there is a white man whose name is Buffalo Bill Cody, who is now visiting our Lakota brothers to the southwest of us. I am told that this man, Buffalo Bill, is not a bad man, though he pursues fame and approval, as well as the white man’s gold. Further, I am told that he searches for those among us who can perform feats of daring, because he would take the best that we have and parade those youths before the White Man. It is said to me that this is the manner in which this man purchases the necessities of living.
“I have discovered that he offers a home for those whom he chooses, as well as the white man’s gold and silver which can be traded for clothing, food and other comforts. He is soliciting youths who can perform trick riding, or who can run as fast as the wind or those who can shoot with precision. He also is asking for young men who are unparalleled in tests of strength and brawn. Wind Eagle, you have proven yourself to be unequalled in shooting the arrow straight, accurately and with a speed that no one in all the nations can match.”
Wind Eagle nodded silently.
“And you, Macá Mázasapa, my son, are the best horseman in all the Nakoda Nation, performing tricks that even the finest riders of the Plains, the Blackfeet, admire.”
Iron Wolf dipped his head in acknowledgement.
“I am now asking you to act for me on behalf of your people; humbly, I would implore you both to travel to the Lakota people on the Pine Ridge Reservation and enter into those contests sponsored by this man, Buffalo Bill.” Horned Headdress paused significantly as though he were choosing his next words with care. “I have seen in vision,” he continued, “that the White Father, or a man representing him, will attend one of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West shows. If I could, I would go in your place, but there are reasons why I cannot. I am no longer a youth who might compete against other youths. Also, I am needed here to counsel our sick and our needy and to act against this Indian Agent on behalf of our people, for this man is still here, is still corrupt, and every day denies our people the food and supplies that have been promised to us by treaty.”
As was tradition in Indian councils, neither young man spoke, both kept their eyes centered downward, in respectful contemplation. Not only was it the utmost in bad manners to interrupt a speaker, but it was a particular taboo to volunteer one’s opinions with an elder of the tribe unless asked to do so. At length, Horned Headdress continued, saying, “I have seen into the future, and I believe that both of you will be accepted by this showman. I ask you this: when the White Father or his representative comes to this show, ask for a private audience with this man, who I believe will grant your request. But beware. I have also seen that all will not be easy for you, for there is a deceiver there. You may come to know this person by being part of Buffalo Bill’s show. Have a care, and do your work well, for this deceiver might be the greatest threat to all the Indian Nations. This trickster, if not recognized and stopped, may bring about death and destruction to our children in ways that our minds do not comprehend. Look for this person, discover who it is, man or woman. Be alert that if we do not learn from what tribe he or she hails, this deceiver could bring disaster not only to us, but to all the Indian Nations, and we, as an Indian people, might die in spirit forever. Identify this person as quickly as you might and disarm him or her, for I do not speak lightly that the fate of our children rests with you.”
He paused for a moment. “And now,” he continued, “I would hear what you wish to say about this burden I ask you to shoulder, for I would know if each one of you stands ready to pit your skills against this ill wind of tragedy for our people.”
Now came the chance for each young man to speak, and they both agreed that they would be honored to bear this responsibility. They would go at once to their Lakota brothers in the south, and yes, they would use all their cunning and strength to prevent any future harm that might befall their people.
Horned Headdress nodded approval. “It is good,” he acknowledged, before adding, “Seek out another young man from your secret clan, the Wolf Clan, once you have been successful in joining Buffalo Bill’s show. Take him into your confidence, for I have also seen that three is oftentimes better protection against evil than two.”
Both young men nodded.
“Wašté, good. Now, listen well, my young warriors, and I will tell you what I wish you to say to the white man’s representative, and what I wish you to do.…”
Wind Eagle looked out from his lofty perch upon a stony ridge, which sat high above the winding waters of the Big Muddy, or as the white man called it, the Missouri River. He faced the east, awaiting the sunrise, his face turned upward, his arms outstretched in prayer. Below him unfolded numerous pine-covered coulees and ravines, jagged and majestic as they cut through the mountains, a range which appeared to never end. The huge rock beneath his moccasined feet felt solid and firm, and, as he inhaled the moist air of the morning, he gazed outward, welcoming the beauty of the Creator’s work.
He sought a vision to guide him on this vital quest for his people. Also, he hoped to ease his troubles, for as Horned Headdress had so elegantly said, the shared tragedy that had destroyed so many of their people had also struck Wind Eagle personally.
It was true that starvation had been the ultimate weapon employed by rogue forces within and without the tribe. Because both the Indian Agent and the Indian police had acted against the people, Wind Eagle’s grandfather had died in those cages the white man called jails. At the time, Wind Eagle and his father had been gone from the village on the hunt for food. But game was scarce, causing his own, and his father’s, absence to extend for too long a time. When they had returned to their village, they had found that many of their friends were now gone. Even his beloved grandmother—the woman who had raised him—had been weak when Wind Eagle and his father had returned. For a short while, it had appeared that she might recover, but it was not to be. Too soon, she had left this life to travel to the Sandhills, where she would join her husband. At least, they would journey on that path together.
It was only a few days past that Ptehé Wapáha, Horned Headdress, had spoken to himself and Iron Wolf, setting the two of them into action. Quickly, they had made their plans and had talked of nothing else for the past two days, and, if they were both picked by the Showman to be a part of the show, each individually knew what his part would be in this vital task. Failure was no option; the life of their people must continue.
Because no delay could be spared, they were to leave this very night to set out upon the trail to the Pine Ridge reservation. They would travel by horseback, the both of them taking two or more of his ponies with him.
But no such journey could commence without first seeking a vision, for only in this way could a man communicate with his Creator. And so Wind Eagle began with a prayer:
“Waka?tanka, hear my plea. I come before you humble, having given away my best clothing to the needy. As is right for my appeal, I have bathed myself in the smoke of many herbs, and have spent many days in prayer. Show me, guide me, to see how I might best aid my chief and my people.”
Then he sang:
“Waka?tanka, wacéwicawecioiya, (Creator, I pray for them)
Waka?tanka, ca jéciyata, (Creator, I call thee by name)
Waka?tanka, ca jéciyata,
Waka?tanka, unkákí japi. (Creator, we suffer)
Waka?tanka, oi?iya. (Creator, help me)
He closed his eyes, inhaling deeply as the sun peeped up from above the horizon. Already, he could feel the sun’s warming rays, and he sighed. It was good, and he became quiet, merging himself with the spirit of Mother Earth, hoping that he might be gifted a vision. Perhaps Waká?ta?ka was attuned to the cries of His people, for Wind Eagle was not left long to linger. As he opened his eyes, he beheld a pair of bald eagles—his namesake—dancing in the cool drafts of the air. Beautiful was their courtship ritual as they climbed ever higher and higher into the airy altitudes of the sky.
Then it happened, the dance of love: locking talons, they spun around and around, spiraling down toward the earth in what might seem be a dive to their death. Still, neither let go of the other, embracing and holding onto each other in their twirling spectacle until the very last moment. From that courtship dance, the pair would mate and form a union that would last their lifetime, and out of that union would appear a new generation of bald eagles. So it had been for thousands of years past; so it was now.
Entranced by the exquisiteness of this show of nature, he didn’t at first see what was before him, didn’t realize the two eagles were now hovering in the air, within his reach. The sound of their flapping wings, however, was loud in the cooling mountain breeze, and, lifting his vision to encompass them both, they spoke to him:
“We, the eagle people, are sent here from the Creator to tell you that He has heard your plea. He has told us to say this to you.
“Learn from us, for we, the eagle people, marry but once, and for all our life. Heed the advice of your heart, since it will lead you on a path that will ensure the well-being of your people. Beware the past mistakes of others. Beware also the one or the many who would hide within the cloak of deceit. Be strong, remain alert, for the way to help your people will be fraught with great danger.
“Opportunity will soon be yours, for your skill is the best in all the Nations. Use this to learn about your peoples’ secret enemy, for it will be through this venture that will appear the chance to free your people from a coming darkness. If you are successful, your acts of valor will be spoken about throughout the Indian Nations.
“Trust your heart, for there is one there who might help you to find peace within your mind and spirit.
“We have spoken.”
Wind Eagle outstretched his arms toward the eagles, and he might have sung his song back to them, but the two birds had already lifted away from him, soaring higher and higher into the sky. Once more, the eagles locked talons, repeating the ancient courtship ritual dance.
Breathing deeply, he watched their magnificent show with respect, until at last the eagles plummeted to the earth, breaking away from one another before striking the ground. Coming together again, they climbed high over the rocks, alighting at last upon their nest. Here, they would love, ensuring that their species survived well into the future.
What was the meaning of their verse? He would relay his vision to his chief, of course, for only in this way could he assure the success of his task. But, before he left, he sang out his thanks in prayer, saying:
“Waka?tanka, I thank you for the vision you have given me.
“Waka?tanka, I honor you. I honor your messengers.
“And now I would seek out my chief that I might ensure I understand fully your instruction to me.”
So saying, Wind Eagle stepped back from the ridge and retraced his steps to his camp. The day was still young, and he felt renewed with purpose.
An infamous dueling field outside Bladensburg, Maryland
May 20th, 1888
The early morning’s cool, gray mist hung low over the dueling field’s short grass and the woods that surrounded it. The lawn and woods-scented air was heavy and moist here at the Bladensburg contesting grounds; and, because this notorious spot lay only a few blocks from Washington DC proper, the atmosphere was further flavored with the scent of smoke from the fires and the wood-burning stoves of the numerous houses in the city. The earth felt mushy and wet beneath her footfalls, and the grass both cushioned and moistened the leather of her boots, as well as the bottom edge of her outfit. There was a chill in the air, and Lucinda Glenforest wore a short jacket of crushed velvet gold over the flowery embroidered skirt of her cream-colored, silky dress. Her bonnet of gold and ivory velvet boasted a brim that was quilled, and the satin bow that was tied high on top, fell into inch-wide strings that tied under her chin. The color scheme complemented her fiery, golden-red hair that had been braided and tied back in a chignon that fell low at the back of her neck. The entire ensemble had been strategically donned in the wee hours of the morning to allow for freedom of movement, which might be more than a little required for the sedate “battle” which was to take place.
Beside her reposed Lucinda’s fifteen-year-old younger sister, Jane, whose condition being only a few months in the making, was, for the moment, hidden. But soon, in less time than Lucinda liked to consider, the consequence of Jane’s ill-fated affair would become evident.
“Don’t kill him, Luci.”
The words served to irritate Luci; not because of Jane’s concern for the swine who had done this to her, but because of Luci’s involvement in a situation that should rightly involve male members of their family. But their father, General Robert Glenforest, had left for the Island of Hawaii on the urgent business of war, and this, because their family had no brother to uphold its honor, left only Luci to contend with the problem. The fact that she possessed the skills to tackle the dilemma was hardly the point.
Being the eldest child in a military family, Luci had been fated to mimic her father’s profession, for General Glenforest had made it no secret that he had hoped his firstborn would be a boy. To this end, he had carefully schooled Luci into the more male occupations of war, of shooting, of defense and of strategic planning. Luci’s own inclinations—which had included dolls and pretend dress-up—were of no consequence to her father. With the feminist movement in full swing, General Glenforest had found favor in openly proclaiming that he hoped Luci would follow in his footsteps, or if this weren’t quite possible, to marry a soldier as like-minded as he. He went further to state that he hoped his daughter would thereafter advise her husband wisely.
As Luci had grown older, she had protested, of course, but it hadn’t done her any good, especially since she enjoyed and stood out in the sport of the shooting gallery. Her prowess in these matches had earned her many a trophy over her male counterparts, and, as time had worn on, she had gone on to win and win and win, even those matches where the man she was pitted against was years older than she.
Now, while it might be true that Luci enjoyed the thrill of shooting matches, it was not factual that she shared other traits of the male gender. After all, she was well aware that she was not a man, and outside of the marksmanship that she excelled in, she held few common threads with the male of the species. Indeed, she often found a boy’s rather crude sense of humor extremely gross and very unfunny.
So it was that she had mastered a defense against her father, her resistance being to dress up and to act in as ladylike a manner as possible. Indeed, she flaunted her femininity, had done so even as a child, especially when her father was in residence. Her rebelliousness had earned her a treasure, though. She had come to love the manner in which she adorned herself. Even her day dresses protested the current trend of the dark colors of black, brown and gray; none of that for her. Her clothing consisted of vivid hues of blue, coral, pink, yellow, green and more. Indeed, she flaunted the style of the walking dress, cutting her version of that style low in the bodice. Tight waists, which hugged her curves, ended in a “V” shape over her abdomen in front and the beginning arc of her buttocks in back. These and other attributes of her clothing asserted her female gender quite vividly. Her bustles were soft and feminine, and were generally trained in back, adding to the aesthetic allure of her costume, while the overall effect of her skirts, draped in gatherings of material, fell like a soft waterfall to the floor.
That this style was considered to be a woman’s attire for only evening gatherings bothered her not in the least. Although she had often heard the whispered gossip doubting the truth of her maidenhood, no one dared to repeat such lies to her face.
Her father, when he was in residence, accused her of playing up her feminine assets too well. But when he had gone on to criticize her too greatly, Luci had merely smiled at him; revenge, it appeared, was sweet. Truth was, left to her own devices, Luci might have made much of her own inclinations, for her heart was purely girlish. Indeed, secretly at home, she enjoyed the more womanly chores of baking, cooking and sewing.
It did bother her that her abilities with a gun appeared to frighten suitors, for at the age of nineteen, she had never known the amorous attentions of any young man; no boyfriends, no male interest in her as a young woman. She’d not even experienced a mild flirtation with a member of the opposite sex. Indeed, it might be said that she was nineteen and ne’er been kissed.
So it was with reluctance that Luci answered her sister’s plea to “not kill him,” saying, “I promised you that I wouldn’t, Janie, and that’s all I can assure you. You must admit that the brute deserves no consideration whatsoever. If father were here, you know that he would demand a Military Tribunal for that man, since both our father and that viper are military. Even a firing squad would be too good, I’m sure. To think, that skunk told you he wasn’t married—“
“He did propose to me.”
“How could he? Janie, he was married when he proposed to you. He’s nothing but a lying thief.”
“He’s not a thief!”
“He took your maidenhood, didn’t he?” Lucinda whispered the words. “Once lost, it’s gone forever. You must see that he deserves to be killed.”
Jane blushed. Still, she persisted, entreating, “Please don’t do it, Luci. Please. I love him so.”
This last was said with such urgency and dramatics, that Luci’s only response was a sigh. If it were up to her…
She still remembered back to a few weeks ago, and to Janie’s confession.
Luci had found her blond and beautiful fifteen-year-old sister locked in her room, grieving. On enquiry, Jane had confessed her problem. “I’m pregnant, Luci. We had planned a June wedding. But now?…”
“Pregnant? Had planned a June wedding?”
“He’s married. I didn’t know. I swear I didn’t. He told me he loved me, and that we would be married in June. But when I came to him to tell him of the child, he laughed at me.”
“He laughed? You’re telling this to me truly? He honestly laughed?”
Jane cried and seemed unable to speak. She nodded instead.
“Who is this man?”
Jane hiccupped. “I…promise me that you won’t kill him.”
“How can I say that to you in view of what has happened? And with Father gone. Now, tell me, who is this man? You know I’ll find out one way or the other.”
“I suppose you will. But please, I can’t reveal his name to you unless I have your word that you won’t kill him.”
Luci paused. She could force the issue, but she would rather not. Perhaps it was because Jane was more like a daughter to her than a sister, for Luci had taken on the role of “mother” at the age of four, when their own mother, shortly after giving birth to Jane, had passed on to the heavenly plane. Plus, their father had never remarried. Luci uttered, “I will do my best not to kill him, Janie. But that’s all I can promise.”
Sniffing, Jane blew her nose on the dainty handkerchief in her hand, then at length, she admitted, “I guess that’s good enough. I think you might know him. It’s Captain Timothy Hall. But please, don’t be angry at him. I love him so.”
Of course Luci knew the worthless snake. He had once courted Abagail Swanson, one of her best girlfriends, who also had been underage at the time. Luckily for her friend, she had discovered the truth of Hall’s marital state before he’d been able to inflict permanent damage on her.
What was wrong with the man? Was his twenty-year-old wife already too old for him? Was he a pervert?
Oh, what she would like to do to him if the society around them would only allow it.…
Well, that was all in the recent past; what was done was done. Today was the day he would pay. Today, that no-account slime would contend with her, and Luci pledged to herself that her sister’s honor, as well as that of their family, would be avenged.
Once again, she thought back to the last few weeks. In less than twenty-four hours after her talk with Janie, Luci had challenged the bearded, black-haired degenerate, and had done so in as public a place as possible, a garden party. He had laughed at her, of course, when she had confronted him, and, using her gloves, she had slapped his face.
“You’re a two-timing scoundrel, Captain Hall, and I challenge you to a duel. Make no mistake, I will protect and defend my family’s honor.”
“You? A woman? Dueling me?” He snickered. “I wouldn’t stoop so low.”
“Low? Are you a coward, then? Is your problem that your spine runs yellow? You know that no man has ever bested me in the skill of the shooting gallery.”
His answer was nothing more than a loud hiss.
“My second will act at once, setting the time and place of the duel. And hear me out, if you don’t show, I will ensure that all the country in and around Washington DC, as well as your wife, will know not only of your misdeeds, but also of your cowardice. And this, I promise.”
Still, she thought, he might not come. For now, she awaited her second, as well as those in Hall’s party. She picked up her pistol—a Colt .45—checking it over carefully, swearing to herself what she would do to him if the wicked man didn’t show.…
“The rules for this duel are as follows,” declared Sergeant Anthony Smyth, a tall, dark-haired gentleman, who was Luci’s second. Smyth was an excellent marksman in his own right, which was one reason why Luci had picked him to preside over the duel. That both he and his wife were close family friends had aided Luci in making the choice. But Smyth was continuing to speak, and he said, “The match continues to first blood, and, regardless of how minor the injury, the match then ends. No further shots are legal, and will not be tolerated. The twenty paces, which were agreed upon in writing, have been marked out by a sword stuck in the ground at each side of the field. When I drop the handkerchief that I hold in my hand, you may each advance and fire. Lieutenant Michaels is on duty as the official surgeon.” Sergeant Smyth glanced first at Luci, then at Captain Timothy Hall. “Are there any questions?”
When neither she nor Captain Hall spoke up, Sergeant Smyth continued, “Then it is begun.”
Luci glanced down the field, estimating her distance, as well as determining where exactly she would place her shot. Having already decided that a shoulder injury would be the easiest to heal, she calculated the precise angle that would be required to obtain that “first blood,” and end the match. Next to Captain Hall stood his older brother, James Hall, his second.
Behind Luci, well to her rear and out of shooting range, sat Janie, who had brought a blanket to cushion the soft ground upon which she sat. Refreshments of cinnamon rolls and coffee, with plates and coffee cups, decorated a table next to Janie. As was expected by the rules of conduct for all matters concerning dueling, both Janie and Luci had brought the refreshments for the participants today, including that serpent, Captain Tim Hall.
Luci hadn’t easily consented to the early morning snack, but her friend, Sergeant Smyth, had already determined that the duel would follow the rules of personal combat exactly, making her obligated to provide the food and drink.
She sighed as she awaited the signal to begin, but she never once glanced away from her target. To do so might be fatal.
Smyth dropped the handkerchief, and both duelists fired at will. Luci’s shot hit Hall in the shoulder, as she had intended, while Hall’s volley missed her entirely.
“First blood has been taken,” called out Sergeant Smyth. “The match now ends as formerly agreed upon. All participants are to put down their weapons, and all are invited to coffee and rolls, which they will find at the far side of the field. A surgeon is on hand to deal with your wound, Captain Hall.”
Luci turned away, setting her gun down on the table next to her.
The explosion was unexpected. The match was finished, wasn’t it? If so, why was Captain Hall still firing at her?
Hall’s next shot hit her in her left upper arm.
“Stop this at once!” shouted Smyth. “Halt! This is illegal!”
But Luci ignored her second in command; she was in a gun fight and under attack; his words didn’t even register with her. With the quick reflexes of one who is in command of her weapon, she grabbed hold of her Colt, turned, and carefully aimed her shot to do the most damage to Captain Hall without killing him.
She sent her answering bullet at Captain Timothy Hall, placing the slug high up on his thigh, intending the bullet to miss, yet graze his masculine parts. His loud cry indicated she had been successful. She turned her pistol on Hall’s second—James Hall—who had picked up his own gun, as though he might consider using it against her, also, illegal though it was.
“Captain Hall, you and your brother must cease this at once. You will be reported. You and your second will likely be court martialed if you continue firing,” Sergeant Smyth yelled, as he hurried toward Luci, his own Colt drawn and aimed at the two culprits. But his threat fell on deaf ears. Hall had fallen to the ground, his shrieks indicating he was in too much pain to be of any more use in a gunfight. Hall’s brother, James, however, looked ready to continue the match, except that when he espied Luci’s Colt pointed directly at him, as well as Smyth’s drawn weapon, James Hall instead dropped his gun and held his hands up in surrender.
Luci nodded. But that was all that she did. Without letting her guard down, she kept her weapon trained on both the Hall brothers as she paced to where Jane sat at the side of the field. Bending, Luci grabbed hold of her sister by the arm and pulled her up. Then, without turning her back on Captain Hall and his brother, she made her retreat toward the street, where her coach awaited.
“Make a report of this at once,” she instructed Smyth, as well as Lieutenant Michaels, the military surgeon. “Let all know what a cowardly slime Captain Hall truly is. My father must be informed, and he will thank you both for doing so.”
Without cause to do more at the moment, Luci and Jane slowly withdrew, Jane leading the way to their coach, for Luci never once turned her back on her opponent. That the screams of Captain Timothy Hall wafted through the air was music to Luci’s ears. By measured retreat, they gained the street and the carriage, and Jane practically flew into her seat within.
“Driver!” yelled Luci as she quickly followed her sister into the conveyance. “Take us to the army telegraph office as quickly as possible!” Seating herself with care, she continued, declaring to Jane, “We must send Father word of this at once.”
“Why, you’re hurt!”
It was true. The exact extent of the damage was yet to be determined, and it was only now, within the relative safety of their coach, that Luci realized her arm hurt unbearably.
Yet, to Janie, all she said was, “It is only a scratch, soon healed. But come, Jane, please tear off a part of my petticoat, and give it to me to tie, that I might stop this bleeding, for I fear it is staining my blouse.”
“Leave it to you to consider only the damage to your clothing,” scolded Jane as she did as instructed. It was also she who tied the tourniquet. “As soon as we arrive at our home, I will summon our surgeon to attend to you at once.”
“After we send that telegraph to father,” amended Luci. “I fear we have not heard the last of Captain Hall and his brother. Though I feel assured that Mr. Smyth will also telegraph word to our father on any channel available to him, he may not be able to do this at a speed that could be required to ensure our good health.”
“What do you mean?”
Luci sent her sister a cautious glance. With the duel having gone as badly as it had, it was not in Luci’s nature to instill even more alarm in Jane, especially considering her delicate condition. Nevertheless, a word of attentiveness might be in order.
To this end, she patted Jane’s hand, smiled at her and said, “When Captain Hall heals from the wound I inflicted upon him, he might feel compelled to seek us out for daring to expose his base nature to his fellow military officers. A man who would flaunt the rules of honor cannot be trusted. And I fear—”
“Luci, please,” Jane cried, tears in her eyes. “What he has done is wrong, so very, very wrong, but please do not keep degrading his character to me. A scoundrel he is, I have no doubt, and I feel terrible that he has hurt you, but I am, after all, carrying his child. I wish I weren’t, Luci, but it is done, and I must bear the consequences of my actions. However, I fear that, as he is the babe’s father, he may have rights that even I don’t understand. I should try to discover a good trait he might possess, for I fear that I may have to deal with him in the future.” She pulled out a hanky from her purse and blew her nose. “Is it possible that he might have some logical reason as to why it was necessary to continue to fire at you when he should have stopped? Perhaps it was a reaction he could not control?”
“He fired two illegal shots at me, Janie, not one.”
“Oh, how hard it is to love a man so much,” Janie uttered with so much heartfelt passion that Luci was reminded of her sister’s youth—and the hardship of being pregnant at so young an age. “I know it’s true enough that he lied to me, but that doesn’t make him all bad, does it? I once found good in him. It must still be there. Oh, Luci, it hurts to love him so. It hurts.”
Momentarily, Luci felt at a loss for words. She made up for that lack by patting Jane’s hand instead.
“It will get better,” she assured Jane at last. “I know it might seem now as though the hurt will never heal. But it will.” She sighed. “It will. And perhaps you are right. Maybe in the future we might be dealing with a good man. I guess one could say that only the future will declare the truth of his character. We can hope, Janie, we can hope.”
Luci averted her gaze to stare at the closed, royal blue curtains that fell down over the windows of the carriage. Enough said. She would send this telegram to their father, then wait and see what might unfold. Reaching over to pull that blue, velvet curtain away from the window, she watched as the sun came up in the east.
She poked at her cereal but couldn’t bring herself to eat over fear her stomach would protest. “How bad was last night’s? Was there anything involved other than major drooling?”
Please don’t let me have had any truly embarrassing loss of body functions in front of Mr. Tall, Dreamy and Intelligent.
“Nah, it wasn’t bad. I’m a vet. I’ve had dogs pee on me and cows shit on my boots. But the worst was when a horse kicked me in vet school. I got knocked flat on my ass and landed in a pile of horse dung in front of the entire class.”
She couldn’t help but chuckle and appreciate his effort to put her at ease. “Now that’s embarrassing.”
“You got that right, and it got worse when everyone in class started calling me shit kicker. Try living that nickname down.”
“No, thanks. You win the embarrassment sweepstakes.”
But only because it appeared her seizure last night had been mild.
“I don’t know how I got lucky enough to keep my corps buddies from finding out about it. I guess the separate worlds thing.”
“Ty doesn’t know about this alias?” When Cooper shook his head, she continued. “I can feel the power pulsing through my veins thinking of the possibilities. A barrel racing horse needs a lot of vet care. You know, I’m thinking we could cut a deal for my silence.”
His blue eyes darkened to a shade near cobalt. “I wouldn’t have pegged you as a blackmailer.”
“Not unless I’m in a real spot.”
“Should I be worried?”
“Not now, but I’m filing the information away just in case.”
His comment shattered her playful mood. What would Cooper think if he discovered the truth, that she’d never graduated from high school, but earned a GED a couple years later?
“I should apologize for showing up last night. Aubrey and I were talking, and she suggested we come see you. It sounded like a good idea at the time, but…” Her voice trailed off. “There’s nothing else to say, except I’m the adventurous type, and it sometimes gets me into trouble.”
“I say we forget about last night. I wasn’t at my best either, and truth be told, I owe you an apology, too.”
“No, you don’t. I put you in an awkward position, asking for help to short cut the process. I’m not exactly proud of that, but in my defense, I’d had a long day with my mom, and I was pretty desperate.”
The sound of scratching against glass pulled their attention to the patio door a few feet away. The tri-colored dog and shepherd from last night stood peering inside. “I’d wondered where they were.”
When Cooper let the dogs in, Rowdy stayed with Cooper, but Penny made a beeline for Cheyenne and parked herself at her feet. “Did she push me onto the couch right before I blacked out?”
Cheyenne glanced in the living room and the reality of what could’ve happened washed over her, making her tremble. “With the coffee table and end tables there, if not for Penny, I probably would’ve hit something when I fell.” Cheyenne leaned over and cupped the animal’s face between her hands. “I owe you a big thank you. You saved me another huge bump to the head or worse.” She turned to Cooper. “I wonder what made her do that.”
“She sensed you were going to have a seizure.”
“I knew service dogs could help keep someone safe once a seizure started, but I didn’t know they could sense before one started.”
“Opinions differ, but I’m a firm believer some can. Could be they sense something in a person’s behavior, or it’s possible their sense of smell is so keen, they detect a chemical change before the seizure hits. Unfortunately, we don’t always pick up on their natural alerting behaviors. A dog could nip at a person, bark like crazy in a way that’s different from its normal bark, or—”
“She whines and paws at a person.”
Cooper nodded. “A thought occurred to me last night.” He explained about a product he was working on.
Something about an app and a thing a person wore like a watch that went along with a device a dog was trained to press when an alarm sounded. That alerted a seizure patient’s emergency contact or EMS. The whole thing sounded odd and Cheyenne couldn’t understand how it would help. In fact, she was only half listening when Aubrey burst out of the bedroom. “Cheyenne, where are you? We’ve got a problem.”
Rowdy barked. Penny slid closer to Cheyenne and shoved her nose under her palm. “It’s okay, girl.” She patted the dog’s head while she called out to tell Aubrey she was in the kitchen.
Her friend rushed toward her, blonde hair tangled around her face, her clothes rumbled and cockeyed from sleep. Panic flared in her eyes. “I just talked to my mom. When yours couldn’t reach you this morning, she showed up at my apartment, and when you weren’t there, your hysterical mother called mine trying to find you. I told her where we were, but you should call her.”
Foreboding twisted Cheyenne’s stomach into a huge knot. “How bad is it?”
Before Aubrey answered, her phone rang again. “What now, Mom?” She paused to listen. “Tell her Cheyenne’s fine, and get her to call them back.”
Call who back? Cheyenne wrapped her arms around her stomach to keep from shaking. What had her mother done now? Her mind refused to consider the possibilities. She glanced at Aubrey, whose skin had paled to a shade above zombie gray. This was bad.
When Aubrey ended the call, Cheyenne said, “What’s my mom done? Called out the national guard?”
“Close. She called the College Station police.”
To be entered to win today’s giveaway, leave a comment about an embarrassing moment like Cheyenne experienced above with her mother. One random person will win a copy of To Catch A Texas Cowboy, book 2 in my Wishing Texas series and the soup mug.
Book 3 in the series, To Tame A Texas Cowboy is available now. Click here to order.
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
“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?”
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…”
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.”
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.
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.
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 ~
Through 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 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.
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.
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!)
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.
She smiled softly. “You just had it.” Then she disappeared around the corner.
** ** ** ** ** **
Christmas with the Outlaw (A Western Christmas Homecoming Anthology)
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.