Here Come The Brides – Laughing On The Way To The Altar


More Love and Laughter From Margaret Brownley

The following is a short except from Dawn Comes Early.  Eleanor owns the Last Chance Ranch. Robert proposes to her yearly, but has never mentioned the word love.  This is a good thing—a very good thing.  Because even an old hand like Eleanor can’t protect her heart forever. 

Miss Margaret is giving away a copy of her book,

 so speak up or forever hold your peace

 (Your choice: print or eBook!)

 

 Excerpt 1 — Dawn Comes Early

            Robert picked out a clear sandy spot and knelt on one knee. He pulled off his hat and held it to his chest. Most men his age would be at least half bald but not him. His silver hair was just as full and lush as that of a much younger man.

            Eleanor gazed down at Robert. “Must you be so dramatic?”

            “It’s my proposal. I can be as dramatic as I please.”

            “Very well. If you insist.”

            He cleared his throat and his pale blue eyes held hers. “Will you, Eleanor Walker, do me the honor of becoming my wife?”

             Each year on her birthday he proposed marriage and each year she turned him down—and for good reason. Arizona Territory community property laws would make Robert half owner of her ranch. Her painful divorce taught her the folly of shared ownership and she had no intention of making the same mistake twice.

             “How long have we been doing this, Robert?”

            “Fourteen, fifteen years,” he said. “But like I’ve told you many times, I’m a patient man.”

            “I’m not sure that patient is the right word,” she said. “In any case, the answer is no.” No surprises, there.

            Her answer hung between them for several moments before he rose and brushed the sand off his trouser leg. “Same time, same place next year.”

            “Same answer.”

 www.margaretbrownley.com

 

And now from Phyliss Miranda . . .

Miss Phyliss is giving away a copy of Give Me a Texas Ranger, so be sure to leave a comment!

In my story, One Woman, One Ranger for our anthology, Give Me a Texas Ranger, I used factual events of Mickey and Frenchy McCormick and how they were forced into marriage. I took that tidbit of history and turned it around where my Texas Ranger, Hayden McGraw, is faced with a similar situation. As a matter of fact, McGraw’s character was developed from a real life crusty  ol’ Texas Ranger in the Texas Panhandle in the late 1800’s.   

Please note that I am using some quotes from the book, but also leaving parts out, so you won’t find every single word of these excerpts in the story.

Excerpt 2 ––  “One Woman, One Ranger” in Give Me A Texas Ranger

            Not only was he tired, hungry, and dirty, but technically, Hayden McGraw guessed he was still on suspension with the Texas Rangers. The last thing he needed was to become involved in the quarrel that seemed to be brewing in Buffalo Springs, Texas. It wasn’t any of his concern … yet.

            First Lieutenant McGraw finds a place to quench his thirst where he walks right into the middle of a room full of grumpy towns folks, including an old toad named Baldy, waiting on the Justice of the Peace to commence a meeting …

            “Where’s that dern justice of the peace anyways?” A boisterous voice boomed. “He called this meeting.”

            “Probably at Molly Lou’s showing off his new book of marriage licenses, trying to make the gamblers and dancehall girls see the error of their ways,” Mr. Baldy answered. “He says you’ve gotta get hitched if you’re livin’ without benefit of clergy–“

            “What in the heck is that supposed to mean?” A woman, not so lady like, spouted.

            “Means everybody in Newman County has gotta get legit. No marriage license, no beddin’.” Baldy’s eyes narrowed, brows knitted together. “I’m jest quotin’ the JP.”

            It doesn’t take long for McGraw to encounter the feisty, beautiful Patience Eleanor Stevenson, who has come to town to fight for the rights of the ladies who work in Molly Lou’s, her drinking establishment across the creek. She enters the saloon mad as a peeled rattler ….

            “Women have rights, and we’re nobody’s have to! We don’t have to do anything, just because a man tells us to do so.”  

            The bully of a sheriff takes umbrage at her attitude and threatens to arrest her if she doesn’t leave.  Unfortunately, Hayden can see how things are unraveling. The sheriff attempts to physically remove her, but comes up on the losing end of the stick … she punches him accidentally.

             Before Hayden can blink the sheriff tries to arrest her, but the towns folks would just as soon see her hanged.  Suddenly, the Texas Ranger is faced with …  A beautiful woman with a noose around her neck, no proof he is a Texas Ranger, and a pompous-ass of a sheriff with hangin’ on his mind. Ranger McGraw, being the senior law enforcer, tries to take custody of her….

             Sheriff Oldham smirked in a gottcha way. “And, I reckon you don’t even know her name.”

            Having a knack for remembering details to a flaw, McGraw says, “Patience Eleanor Stevenson.” He pushed his Stetson back with his thumb. “But, I call her Puddin’ Cake.” He turned to Ella, and said, “Don’t I, wife?”

            If looks could kill, Ella’s face would be on every Wanted Poster between the Canadian and the Rio Grande….

            “Miss Stevenson, uh Mrs. McGraw.” … “Uh, I’m Wilson Scott, Newman County JP. This won’t take long. Reckon we gotta get the formalities out of the way.” He opened a black ledger. “If you’ll both sign here, then all I’ll need is the fee and your union will be duly recorded as required by law.”  

            “Can’t this wait? The misses and I are tired and hungry. And, I want to clear up the matter of the Warrant.”

            “No, sir.“ The JP stood his ground.

            “Nope, Ranger. This needs tending to … now!” Sheriff Oldham interjected.

            “Gotcha fee right here.” Dixie (one of Ella’s employees) pulled a stringed bag from between her breasts and began counting out coins.

            Reluctantly, Hayden signs his name to the ledger.

            Ella folded her arms across her chest and tapped her foot, resisting the JP’s demands. As if it were Hayden’s fault, she furrowed her brow and sent him a go to blue blazes look which scathed all the way to his toes and back again.

            “It’s them or me.” Hayden nodded toward the Sheriff and Baldy, who now held the noose.

            Almost knocking the JP off the porch, she seized the ledger. In an exquisite script, Ella scrolled her name across the paper. She shared her frown with Dixie, as she handed over the fee.

            Dixie raised an eyebrow and shrugged her shoulders. “Should I let them hang you?”

            Ranger McGraw was weighing his druthers.

Here Come The Brides: Forced into Marriage!

Whether it’s by shotgun or another equally pressing reason, sometimes proposals and weddings don’t come at the right time  – even if they’re the right thing. Here are Donna Alward and Mary Connealy with glimpses into a few forced unions from their books!

From THE REBEL RANCHER (June 2012)

“I thought about it all night, Clara. Thought about you and the baby and Diamondback and I know what we have to do.”

She wasn’t sure she liked the sound of this. He seemed very sure of himself and considering she’d already explained her proposal this meant he wasn’t likely to go along with it. She tangled her fingers tighter together and replied, as evenly as she could, “I already told you what I’d like to do. This doesn’t have to change anything, not really. I can keep my life and you can keep yours, and we can work it out so that our baby has both a mother and a father. Right?”

Somehow in the twisting of her fingers, she managed to cross hers, hoping he would see reason.

Another step closer, and this time he was shaking his head. “That doesn’t work for me, Clara. I can’t be a father hundreds of  kilometers away.” He reached out and pried one of her hands loose, clasping it in his strong, warm fingers. “What makes the most sense is…”

He paused, then got down on one knee while her mouth fell open. No, no, no! This couldn’t be happening. He couldn’t possibly be proposing. It would ruin everything! She didn’t want to get married. Didn’t want to lose herself in another relationship where she wasn’t loved in return. Why couldn’t he just be reasonable?

She tried to slide her fingers out of his but his grip was too firm. Oh God, he was looking up at her with those heart-on-his-sleeve eyes and she couldn’t look away.

“I want you to marry me,” he said softly. “Come home to Diamondback, and we can raise our child together.”

Panic threaded its way through her body. “We don’t have to get married to be parents,” she answered, adding a nervous laugh to the end that fell completely flat. Ty’s brow furrowed and a wrinkle appeared just above his nose.

He got to his feet and Clara realized once more how very tall he was. Ty had such presence that he tended to fill a room with it without even trying. It was hard to go toe to toe with that. But the truth was Ty had mentioned absolutely nothing about love. He had asked her but for all the wrong reasons. And it would be a disaster to marry without it. They would end up resenting each other and then what sort of parents would they be?

She had to make him understand that somehow. “Ty,” she tried, praying for calm, “getting married would be a mistake. We’d end up regretting it, I’m sure of it. And then there’d be a child stuck in the middle. If we’re calm and practical now, it’ll be so much better, can’t you see? We’ll make rational decisions rather than running on emotion.”

“Of course there are emotions involved. We’re not talking about buying a car or taking a job. We’re talking about a baby here. My baby.”

“And mine,” she reminded him.

A muscle in his jaw ticked. This wasn’t going the way she wanted at all! It had never crossed her mind that he’d propose. He didn’t love her. She wasn’t a naïve little girl after all. She knew that one night of passion and grief did not a love affair make.

“You’re asking me to make an impossible choice, do you realize that?” He ran his hand through his hair. “I either have to try to be a father on special occasions and holidays, or…”

He dropped his hand. “Damn,” he muttered.

“Or what?” she asked, wondering what choice she’d possibly forced.

“Or leave Diamondback.”

Her lips dropped open. “You’d do that?”

The chocolatey eyes she’d drowned in earlier now hardened. “What choice would I have? You should know me better, especially after everything I told you.” His voice turned accusing. “You know my history. You know how I feel about what my parents did. Thank God Virgil and Molly were there, but what if they hadn’t been? Don’t you think I know how it might have ended up for me? Maybe this was unplanned, but I could never turn my back on my own child. I could never put them second in my life and I thought you understood that.”

And now she saw his eyes glisten with the barest sheen of moisture before he blinked and turned away from her.

“But you love Diamondback,” she said weakly.

“Yes, I do.” His voice was hoarse with emotion. And he didn’t need to say anything more. If she insisted on staying in  Saskatchewan, he would leave the ranch behind. His birthright. His family.

For a chance to win a copy of THE REBEL RANCHER, leave a comment!!!!!!!!!

 And now here’s Mary, with an excerpt from CALICO CANYON:

“I can’t be out here alone with you wearing a nightgown.” Grace clutched the blankets. “It’s not proper.”

Daniel’s fair skin turned an alarming shade of pink as he stared at her. “I’ll bet it wasn’t proper of us to sleep together either.”

“It most certainly was not.” The deep voice from behind hit them at the same instant the cold did.

They all turned to face Parson Roscoe.

The boys wheeled fully around. Daniel sat up. Grace clutched the blankets to her chest and looked into the startled eyes of the  kindly parson and, just behind him, his gentle-hearted wife, Isabelle.

“Parson, it’s not what it looks like,” Grace said.

“Oh, thank heavens,” Mrs. Roscoe said. “Because it looks like you and Daniel spent the night together in this cave.”

“Then it is exactly what it looks like,” John said into a silence more frozen than Grace had been last night.

“Well, yes,” Daniel said. “We did spend the night together, but…”

“Daniel,” Grace gasped in horror.

Daniel looked away from the parson, his skin now fully flaming red. “Well, we did. Do you want me to add lying to the parson in on top of having you in bed…I mean, sleeping together…I mean…” Daniel lapsed into silence.

“Pa brung her home to be our ma, but he tried her out for the night and he decided to return her,” Mark said.

Parson Roscoe stepped fully into the cave. “Both of you get up immediately.”

“In front of the children, Grace? I’m shocked.” Mrs. Roscoe came in and shut the door behind her. The plump woman clutched her hands together in front of her chest as if desperate to get away and spend an hour in prayer just to wash the shock out of her mind.

Grace climbed to her feet. She fumbled with the blankets, there were too many of them to hold. She tried to drop a few of them and managed to drop them all. She caught at them and almost fell forward trying to keep herself covered.

In a voice that seemed to promise eternal flames, Parson Roscoe said to Daniel, “We’ll get on with this and no one will have to know what exactly went on here last night.”

The parson gripped his big black Bible in both hands as if he needed to physically hang on to his faith in the face of this indignity. “Do you Daniel take this woman…”

Daniel was staring at her, his eyes so wide Grace would swear the man had seen a ghost, shook his head.

“I don’t even know how I got here.” Grace flung her arms wide, narrowly missing backhanding Daniel in the face.

“I do.” Daniel grabbed her hand to protect himself.

“About time.” The parson turned his fire and brimstone eyes on Grace.

“No, I didn’t mean…” Daniel dropped her hand like it had sprouted cactus bristles.

“Silence, Daniel.”

“Do you Grace take Daniel—?”

“We told you we aren’t keepin’ her for our ma.” Mark turned on Grace. “You want out of here as bad as we want you out of here, don’t you?”

Grace nodded frantically. “I do.”

“Hallelujah!” The parson raised his hands to heaven.

“I now pronounce you—”

Mrs. Roscoe threw herself, weeping into Grace’s arms, whispering ‘congratulations’.

The parson, whom Grace had always liked, and his wife who seemed like such a sweet-natured woman in the normal course of things, swept out of the cabin. The door slammed shut.

“But I need a ride back to town,” Grace called after them.

“You’re not getting a ride back to town, woman. You’re married!”

Daniel might as well have been a cougar trapped in this cave with her, she’d have felt no safer.

“I’m what?” Deafening silence followed her question.

“To who?” Mark shoved himself to the front of the pack of boys.

Grace looked at Daniel, and it hit her. She was the mother of five—including two ten-year-olds. And she was only seventeen. Grace sank onto the floor and pulled all six blankets over her head.

 Mary’s giving away signed copy of her SOPHIE’S DAUGHTERS trilogy! Just leave a comment to be entered for the draw!

Here Come The Brides – Marriage of Convenience

Romance. Weddings. June has got it all. And as we kick off our special event week here at the Junction, we’d like to invite you to join us for some Filly wedding excerpts. No two weddings are alike, so all this week we will be featuring different themes. Vicki and I will start the ball rolling with two marriage of convenience scenes. One from Short-Straw Bride and the other from Marrying the Major.

Vicki and I will also be drawing winners from those who comment. So tell us something about your own wedding or one you attended to be entered to win a copy of either Short-Straw Bride or Marrying the Major!

Excerpt 1 – Short-Straw Bride

“It’s not too late to change your mind, you know.” Meredith’s husky whisper met Travis’s ears before he’d fully turned.

A gallant denial sprang to his lips, but the moment he saw her, his ability to speak vanished. She was a vision. Her honey-colored hair rolled against her head in thick, soft twists accented by loops of blue ribbon with long tails that draped along the side of her neck. His fingers itched to follow the trail of those ribbons, to brush the tender skin at her nape.

Her lashes were lowered, and he wondered at her shyness until he recalled that he hadn’t answered her comment. “Meri, look at me,” he murmured in a quiet tone that no one would overhear.

Those thick, dark lashes lifted slowly, and the blue of her eyes, made even more vibrant by the blue of her dress, pierced his heart. Her teeth nibbled her bottom lip as she forced her gaze to hold his.

“I’ll not be changing my mind.”

Her shoulders relaxed and a tentative smile tugged at the corners of her mouth. His own mouth curved in response. Then he remembered the awkward bouquet he’d brought. Feeling a little sheepish, he raised his arm and held it out to her.

“It’s not much, but I thought you might like them.”

Her breath caught and for a moment she did nothing but stare at the rustic offering. Unable to see her eyes, Travis’s doubts grew. “I know they’re just a bunch of weeds, so don’t feel like you have to carry them. It was probably a stupid idea anyway.” As his mumbled excuses tapered off, Meredith’s head snapped up.

“Don’t you dare call them weeds, Travis Archer. They’re glorious!” Her eyes glistened with a moisture he didn’t understand. “No bride could have a more beautiful bouquet. Thank you.”

The softness of her palm caressed his knuckles as her hand circled the stems, and the contact had an odd tightening effect on his chest. He offered her his arm and led her over to the parson.

To be honest, Travis didn’t remember much of what the preacher said during the brief ceremony. He supposed he answered at the appropriate times and vaguely recalled Meredith doing the same, but when the parson announced that he could kiss the bride, his senses came on high alert.

How did one kiss a bride he’d never expected to have, one he’d known less than a week? Thinking to buss her chastely on the cheek, he leaned forward. But somehow his mouth found her lips instead. The kiss was brief, gentle, but exquisitely sweet. If not for the hoot Neill let out, he would have returned for another.

A pretty blush colored Meredith’s face as she turned away to accept her cousin’s congratulations, and Travis had to fight the urge to swagger when he approached his brothers.

Excerpt 2 – Marrying the Major

Here comes the bride from Marrying the Major . . . Some of you will recognize Caroline Bradley. I just loved giving her a happy ending.  Caroline is a young widow who accepts a position as a governness because it’s the only way she can be part of a family. When a threat puts  the children in her care in danger, she makes a startling offer to her employer. A retired British army officer, Tristan Willoughby Smith is the third son of a duke, fighting malaria and raising horses in Wyoming. In the following scene, Caroline has just offered to marry him as a way to help protect the children from his evil father . . .

  “It’s a generous offer,” Tristan said to Caroline. “But I can’t take advantage of your good will.”

            “Why not?”

            He didn’t want admit to his potential feelings, but the possibility of affection, or the lack of it, had to be addressed. “You’ve been married before. I presume you loved your husband just as I loved Molly. A marriage in name only strikes me as . . . inadequate.”

            She stood straighter. “Women marry for all sorts of reasons.”

            “Of course.” In England men and women alike married for money and prestige. In America, women married for survival. He’d seen the advertisements for mail-order brides in cheaply bound catalogs. Those creatures struck him as pitiful. Caroline struck him as remarkable. He didn’t intend to accept her offer to marry him, but he wanted to know why she had made it. “If you’ll forgive my boldness, why would you settle for an arrangement of this nature?”

            Color stained her cheeks. “That should be obvious.”

            “It’s not.” At least not to him.

            She held out her arms in a manner that put her life on display. “Look at me, major. I’m almost thirty years old. It’s true I’m widowed, but my marriage was clandestine. In the eyes of society I’m on the shelf. I have no children, no family except for Bessie. My prospects for marriage are nil.”

            He couldn’t believe she thought so little of herself. “That’s simply not true.”

            “Forgive me,” she said with a touch of sarcasm. “But you’re either blind or an incurable optimist.”

            His gaze flicked from her face to her curves and back again. How this woman could believe she had no hope for a husband was beyond him. She was lovely, smart, brave and kind. She wasn’t a naïve girl anymore, but that hardly mattered to a mature man. Tristan preferred a woman whose character had been tested, someone who understood that life had ups and downs. He looked boldly into her eyes. “I assure you, Caroline. I’m not blind . . .”

If you’d like to read more about Caroline’s walk down the aisle, Marrying the Major is available on Amazon . . . I hope you all enjoy the story.

 

The Inspiration Behind Short-Straw Bride . . . and Give Away!!!

As a diehard romantic, I have to admit that I adore the sappy old Hollywood musicals like Singing in the Rain, The Sound of Music, My Fair Lady, and Meet Me in Saint Louis. Last summer, I decided to introduce my 13 year-old daughter to the joy of musicals, and now I’m often treated to the sound of Oklahoma lyrics being belted through the kitchen as I try to put dinner together. Of course, I have to join in.

My all-time favorite musical is Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. I adore the western setting, the rough and tumble men, and the marriage of convenience story. In fact, it’s this very musical that served as the inspiration for Short-Straw Bride.

My story has four brothers instead of seven, and the men don’t sing and dance while they do their chores. However the spark came when I thought about this movie and then asked, what if? What if instead of having the heroine agree to a marriage of convenience at the beginning of the story, the brothers drew straws to see who would marry her when a good deed of hers goes awry? And what if instead of all the brothers being named in alphabetical order after Bible characters, my four brothers were named for heroes from the Alamo?

From there, the Archer clan was born—Travis, Crockett, Bowie (who only answers to Jim), and Neill. And when Meredith infiltrates their isolated ranch, they are never the same.

Here’s a brief excerpt from the scene where the Archers catch her trespassing:

“I knew I had to warn you,” the woman said. “After your kindness to me, I couldn’t stand by and do nothing.”

Travis drew back. “What kindness? I’ve never even seen you before.” Yet the familiarity that continued to stir at the edge of his consciousness made him question the accuracy of that statement.

“But you have.” The crazy woman actually took a step closer to him, completely ignoring the rifle he pointed at her chest. “I was a trespasser then, too, only a much younger one.”

She reached for something in her skirts and he cocked his weapon. “Don’t move, lady. I don’t want to hurt you.”

“I know.”

Instead of shrinking away from him, her eyes held his, filled to the brim with . . . trust?

“You helped me before. Remember? You freed me from that trap and splinted my leg. Now I’m back to return the kindness you extended to me twelve years ago.”

She reached for her skirts again, and heaven help him, all he did was lower his rifle barrel so he could watch her better. He remembered that girl and those abominable traps. How brave she’d been. How trusting. But this couldn’t be her, could it? Surely time hadn’t passed so quickly. She’d been just a child. This woman couldn’t be the same person.

Travis fought his reaction to her and regained his stance. “This is some kind of trick, isn’t it? Some way for you to worm into my good graces so your fiancé can step in and steal my land.”

Her eyes narrowed. “This is no trick, and that man will never be my fiancé.” She tugged on her skirts again. “I can prove who I am, Travis, if you’ll just give me the chance.” She lowered her gaze to somewhere near the ground. “Look at my leg.”

He might be a recluse, but even he knew what she asked wasn’t proper. But apparently Neill was too young to have any qualms.

“Ah, that little scar ain’t nothin’. Jim’s is better.”

A quiet growl rumbled out of Jim, but Crockett actually laughed. Travis turned a glare on the man to his left. Crockett swallowed his mirth.

Fed up with this girl’s shenanigans, Travis finally glanced down at her ankle, at the small amount of skin exposed above the top of her shoe and below her hem. Sure enough, a thin, linear scar marred the pale flesh there.

In a flash, he was seventeen again, tending her wound, and carrying the little girl in his arms all the way to her home. He’d thought of her often—wondering what became of her. Travis brought his gaze up to examine her face again. Her hair was a little darker now, but a few golden streaks remained, evidence of the toe-headed girl he’d met so long ago. Her vivid blue eyes still cut through him as much today as they had back then when they’d been full of tears. The curves she sported now were definitely new, but the determination and bravery he remembered clung to her bearing like a grass burr to a pant leg.

That scrawny little kid had grown into a right handsome woman.

Travis lowered his weapon. “Good to see you again, Meredith.”

 

So do you have a favorite musical? Or is there a book you’d like to see turned into a musical?

I’ll be giving away two copies of Short-Straw Bride today, so be sure to leave a comment.

Have a wonderful Memorial Day weekend!

To Win Her Heart – Celebrate with a Giveaway!!!

Happy Friday the 13th!!! I’m determined to make this a LUCKY day for two of today’s visitors. In honor of To Win Her Heart being named a finalist in the 2012 Romance Writers of America’s RITA contest for Best Inspritational Romance, I’ll be giving away two copies of Levi and Eden’s story.

And because my stomach is still all fluttery over the announcement and I’m having trouble concentrating, I thought I’d post an excerpt from the book and hopefully entice you into leaving comments for your chance to win.

In this scene, our heroine, Eden Spencer (spinster librarian and daughter of the town founder) has just met the man applying for the blacksmith position. In her father’s absence, it is her duty to ensure he is qualified for the job, but once she gets a good look at Levi Grant, she has a hard time keeping her mind on her task.

Oh, and as a side note for those not familiar with the story – Levi has a speech impediment that gives Eden a false first impression of his intelligence. For a book-loving librarian, a man who has trouble stringing a sentence together is not much of a catch. So why can’t she stop staring at him?

 

Excerpt from To Win Her Heart:

Eden fiddled with the bonnet strings that draped over the arm of her chair and into her lap. Even though she and Mr. Grant were not alone in the room, it suddenly felt as though they were. She glanced in his direction, and her gaze collided with his. They both smiled then quickly looked elsewhere. Well, Mr. Grant looked elsewhere. Eden couldn’t seem to find another object in the room on which to rest her gaze. But it wasn’t as if she wanted to look at him. The man was as big as a mountain. Where else was she supposed to look?

 

He certainly possessed an abundance of brawn. Eden’s attention flittered over his arms as he leaned forward and balanced his forearms on his knees. The fabric of his sleeves seemed too meager to contain the muscles within as it stretched thin over his biceps. The heavy aspects of ironwork would be no hardship for this man. It was unfortunate that his intellect hadn’t developed to the same extent as his physique. Then again, he wasn’t interviewing for a position as schoolmaster, so what did it matter? Except that it did matter—to her—a bit more than it should.

 

A vague feeling of disappointment had circulated through her when she first heard him speak. Why his halting verbiage should bother her, she had no idea. It wasn’t as if she had any personal attachment to the man.

 

Eden sat up straighter in her chair, uncrossing her ankles then crossing them again in the opposite direction. She forced her eyes away from the blacksmith, glancing behind him to where Mr. Draper stood hunched over the desk, penning an addendum into the lease contract. Unfortunately, Mr. Grant chose that moment to straighten his own posture, the top of his head moving to block a good portion of the banker’s back and half of the preacher’s arm from her view. Eden bit the inside of her lip.

 

For heaven’s sake. She was tempted to think he had somehow discerned her intention to ignore him and taken action to prevent it.  But, no. The man was just restless. He lifted a hand and scratched a spot behind his ear as he turned his face toward the window. When he finished, a small tuft of hair stuck out, somehow making the gargantuan man seem almost boyish. Eden’s lips curved slightly before she pressed them back down into an indifferent line. His thick, dark brown hair was cropped into short waves. She wouldn’t call them curls; that descriptor sounded much too feminine for a man as rugged as Mr. Grant. However, the strands looked as though they would easily wind around a person’s finger … should a … uh … person’s finger have cause to be in his hair.

 

The smith glanced back at that moment, and Eden dropped her gaze to her lap. Where her right index finger had apparently wound itself up in her bonnet ribbon while she’d been contemplating the man’s hair. She immediately extricated the iniquitous digit and gave it a firm glare.

 

Eventually Eden learns there there is much more depth to this quiet man than a mound of muscle and hair that temps her fingers to bury themselves in its waves, and it is this depth of character that truly wins her heart. But a stunning first impression never hurts, right? Ha!

How about you–any memorable first impressions you’d like to share? Or maybe like Eden, you had a false first impression later proved wrong. Leave a comment to be entered in the giveaway.

Oh, and if you would like to read the entire first chapter of Levi and Eden’s story, click here.

The Rodeo Cowboy – Lisa Mondello

Hello everyone! I want to thank the Petticoats and Pistols gals for having me on the blog today. I’m giving away a copy of my ebook, NOTHING BUT TROUBLE, to TWO readers who leave comments.

I’d like to talk about the appeal of the sexy rodeo cowboy. We love them ‘em, don’t we? I sure do. I fell in love with my first cowboy many years ago when I was on a business trip to Tucson. But it’s not just the cowboy that we’re drawn to in romance novels. It’s the rodeo cowboy.

I’ve often wondered what it is about the rodeo cowboy that has such appeal to a New England gal like me. I think it’s the fearlessness about them. It makes a woman feel safe. Let’s face it. You have to have some pretty tough cookies to get on the back of 1200lbs of dusty, sweaty bull, and hang on for dear life for 8 seconds. And have you ever seen these cowboys ride bronc bareback? It gives tall, dark and dangerous a whole new meaning.

The hero in NOTHING BUT TROUBLE is this kind of cowboy. Fearless and fiercely protective and he does his best to keep a determined debutante safe for 1 month in the Wyoming wilderness. It makes a great combination for romance.

I love writing stories featuring cowboys. NOTHING BUT TROUBLE was my first and is currently available online at Amazon, iTunes, Barnes and Noble, Sony and Kobo. Keep your eye out for HER HEART FOR THE ASKING, book 1 in my Texas Hearts series, featuring sexy bronc bareback rider, Beau Gentry.

Excerpt of NOTHING BUT TROUBLE.:

His jaw tightened. Yes, there was something definitely wrong here. And money had nothing to do with it. It had everything to do with this beauty standing in front of him, who was clueless about what she was getting her pretty little hide into. “No,” he replied tersely.

“Mr. Buxton, I need your help.”

“Tourist season is in full swing. I’m sure you’ll have no trouble finding someone else.” He turned his back to her and began walking along the fence toward the barn, almost forgetting…

 Abruptly, he glanced up and saw the charred remains of the barn. The place where all his troubles had started just one year ago. It hadn’t taken but a second for him to hear her boots digging into the dusty gravel behind him, jarring him from his thoughts.

“Then I’ll do it myself,” she said to his back.

His whole body stiffened. He angled back to read her face, to see if she was just being a spoiled rotten rich kid, trying to get her way, or if she was actually serious. Seeing her head held high and her arms crossed in front of her, he realized she was dead serious. And dead she’d be if she stepped one boot into those mountains alone.

 “You’ll do no such thing.” Frustration flaring, he lifted his dusty hat and forced his fingers through the thick crop of black hair before returning the hat to his head.

“You just don’t get it, do you? You’re not asking me to take you on a theme park ride where you’ll get to see the wonders of the world at a nice safe distance. This is God’s country. The creatures that live up there don’t know civilization, and you are no better than them. You could–probably will–get killed if you go out there alone.” His lips twitched, taking a good long appraising look at the woman in front of him. “You might even chip a nail on that pretty hand of yours.”

Remember, I’m giving away a copy of NOTHING BUT TROUBLE to TWO commenters today. So don’t be shy. Leave a comment and tell me what you love about the rodeo cowboy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Win A Copy of MARRYING THE MAJOR!

I got my author copies last week and can’t wait to start giving them away.  Just leave a comment and I’ll toss your name in the Stetson. Late tonight I’ll draw three names . . . Most of you know that Marrying the Major is Book #4 in the “Women of Swan’s Nest” series.  It’s about Caroline and Bessie, so it’s a two-for-one romance.  Here’s the back cover blurb:

 A Very Practical Proposal . . .

He hired a governess, but what retired officer Tristan Willoughby Smith needs is a wife. Not on his behalf, but to protect little Dora and Freddie. When Caroline Bradley arrives at his Wyoming ranch, she seems perfectly suited–capable, efficient, intelligent . . . if a trifle too appealing.

Caroline knows what a real union of hearts should be, and the major’s polite, no-nonsense offer hardly qualifies. Still, she accepts for the children’s sake, little knowing the complications the marriage will bring to test her confidence and her faith. Yet in this unusual match, Caroline starts to see a glimmer of something strong and true–the makings of the family she never thought she’d find . . .

Here’s an excerpt . . .

This is from the middle of Chapter Two, and it’s one of my favorite scenes. Tristan is ferrying Caroline across a river on the back of Cairo, his prize Arabian stallion. Caroline is terrified of horses. To reassure her, he’s just bragged that Cairo would never disobey him. But that’s exactly Cairo does. He balks in the middle of the river, and Caroline takes a fall…

The water went over Caroline’s head with whoosh. She couldn’t see or breathe. She could only feel the sudden cold and the current grabbing at her skirt. The stallion was bucking and stomping. If she didn’t get out of the river, she’d be pulled downstream or trampled. She tried to stand but stumbled because of the weight of her clothing.

“Get back!” the Major shouted.

He had his hands full with the unruly horse. She didn’t know why it had bucked, but the medical case was slapping against its side. She had a horrible vision of it coming loose. Major Smith would lose the quinine, and she’d lose her only picture of Charles. Bracing against the sandy bottom, she pushed to her feet. She wanted to run for the shore, but if the case tore lose she’d go after it.

Cairo reared back and whinnied. She half expected Major Smith to land in the river with her, but he moved gracefully with the horse, aligning his body with the stallion’s neck and back. Behind her she heard Jon sloshing toward them on Grandma. Being caught between two horses terrified her more than drowning, so she hoisted her skirts and ran downriver.

She stumbled a dozen steps, tripped on her hem and went down. Rocks pressed into her knees and she cried out. She kept her head above water, but her skirt was tangled around her legs. Seemingly out of nowhere, male hands gripped her arms and lifted her from the current.

“Caroline.” She heard the major’s voice, the accent thick as he set her on her feet. “It’s all right. I’ve got you.”

She felt the strength of his arms and the sureness of his stance. As he steadied her, she wiped her eyes with her sleeve and became aware of his body shielding her from the current. She had no business noticing him in a personal way. She was merely an employee, a woman who was afraid of horses and had fallen in the river.

She pulled back from his grasp and staggered away. “I’m all right.”

He splashed closer, reaching for her. “Let me walk you to the shore.”

“No!” She didn’t want to feel his arm around her waist. “Go take care of your horse.”

“Jon has Cairo.”

She looked past him to the shore where Jon and Grandma were leading Cairo up the sandy bank. The black horse had calmed, but he still looked on edge . . . much like the major. He stepped closer to her, his hand extended as if he were giving her a peppermint. “Come now,” he said with authority. “There’s nothing to be afraid of.”

“Oh yes, there is!” She was afraid of him, afraid of her feelings because she couldn’t help but like this man. With malaria symptoms, he had no business jumping into the river to help her. He should have taken his horse to shore and let Jon come to her rescue. Instead he’d risked getting a chill. Even more revealing was the compassion in his eyes. He looked both sincere and commanding, a man of courage who understood fear. She could imagine soldiers following him into battle, trusting him to lead them to victory.

She trusted him, too. But she didn’t trust her feelings. How many times had she felt this spark of interest in a man only to have it dashed?


Don’t forget to leave a comment to be eligible for the drawing!  To order now  from Amazon, click here:  Marrying the Major

Winnie Griggs revisits Knotty Pine, Texas

Hello everyone.  In just a few short weeks my July release, Second Chance Family, will hit the shelves.  This is the third book I’ve set in the town of Knotty Pine, Texas and it’s been really fun to be able to follow several characters through multiple books.  This time the story focuses on two characters I’ve gotten tons of requests from readers to learn more about – namely Cora Beth Collins who runs the local boardinghouse and Sheriff Mitch Collins. 

These two have been sort of dancing around each other since the very first book so I figured it was about time to let them find their own Happily Ever After.  But it wasn’t easy.  In fact, it took a pair of beleaguered, runaway orphans, a busybody neighbor, a stodgy town council and some matchmaking friends to nudge them into making a commitment.  But even then, the frustratingly stubborn Sheriff Hammond was determined to make it an in-name-only marriage.  The ever-resourceful Cora Beth, however, had other plans.

The tag line on the book, which my wonderful editor came up with, is Love was out of the question… until it became the only answer. And I think this is a great summation of the story.

Below is an excerpt that I hope you will enjoy.  Set-up:  Mitch and Cora Beth have just learned something of what the pair of orphans they rescued were running away from.

Oh, and to celebrate the upcoming release of this book, I’ll be giving away an advanced copy to one individual who leaves a comment today.

Excerpt from SECOND CHANCE FAMILY

As soon as they were alone, Cora Beth stood and started pacing.  “I’m so angry I could spit nails.  How could anyone treat kids that way?  Mitch, that man should be locked up.”

Mitch agreed.  Too bad he couldn’t do much about it.  “I’m not sure there are any charges we can legally bring against Titus, but I promise you he will not get his hands on those two kids again.”  That sorry excuse for a man would have to come through him to get to them.

She paused and her face seemed to crumple.  “Oh Mitch, what those kids have been through.  It near breaks my heart.”

He stood and put a comforting hand her shoulder.  “I know.  It’s hard to believe even Titus could be that cruel to a couple of kids.”

She stepped closer and almost of its own accord his hand slipped around her back until he was holding her in a one-armed embrace.  She needed comforting.  He was just being a friend – that was all.

“I feel as if I let them down,” she was saying as she kneaded her left hand with her right, “as if I should have done something to help them before it got this far.  At the very least I should have tried harder to befriend their mother.”

He gave her shoulder a light squeeze and was unaccountably pleased when she leaned back into his arm.  “This is not your fault” he said.  “If you want to start passing blame around, dump a load of it at my door.  As sheriff I should have been more vigilant in checking what was going on out there.”  He caught a whiff of cinnamon and honey, a sweet and spicy mix that seemed to be a part of her.

“No, don’t–”  She suddenly went still and then eased herself out of his hold.  “I’m sorry.”  Her cheeks were prettily stained with pink.  “You must think I’m being a goose.”

“Not at all.”  His arm still tingled where she’d pressed against him, felt bereft without its sweet weight to support.  “Hearing Ethan’s story would upset anyone with a heart.”

“Hand wringing doesn’t do anyone any good.  Those kids need more than my sympathy.”

One thing about Cora Beth, her emotions always led to action.  “You’re already doing your part to help them.  And even though we may not be able to change what’s past, we sure as night follows day can see that it doesn’t happen again.”  Not on his watch at any rate.

“My biggest concern right now is what’s going to become of them.”  She raised a hand, palm forward.  “And don’t you dare mention that orphanage again.  They deserve something better than that.”

This time he agreed.  “I know.  I’m just not sure what we can do about it.”  He felt strongly that he needed to do something to make amends for his inaction – and sending them off to an orphanage wasn’t it.

“How much time do we have to figure something out?” she asked.

“We can put off doing anything official, at least until Cissy is fully recovered – maybe a week or so.  And then there’s the matter of having them declared wards of the state.  The paperwork on that could take a bit more time.”

She sat down again.  “That’s something.  I’ll be praying that the Good Lord shows me the answer.”

Mitch had a pretty good idea how this was going to end up.  But she was right – leave it in God’s hands for now.

She gave him a sympathetic look.  “I’ll also be praying that things go as they should with your meeting with Titus tomorrow.  I certainly don’t envy you that encounter.”

After he took his leave, Mitch found his thoughts focused more on how sweet it had felt to hold Cora Beth than on what his meeting with Titus would be like. 

He’d held her before.  Whenever there was a town dance, he always made a point of claiming Cora Beth as his partner for several dances.  But this had been different.  This time she’d come to him.  This time she’d drawn comfort from him.

This time she’d needed him.

Marrying her was out of the question, of course.  He wouldn’t take the risk of hurting her the way he knew he would.

But maybe, as long as he kept firm control of his own treacherous feelings, he could be the friend she leaned on when she needed comfort or support. 

Surely there was nothing wrong with that?

Cheryl St.John: June Release and Drawing!

Who doesn’t love it when a town or a family is revisited in a sequel? It’s like seeing old friends again or coming home for a stay. It’s always fun to set up a character in a previous book, and then give them their own story. Readers who enjoyed The Preacher’s Wife and asked about a sequel will be happy to know Elisabeth Hart’s story has finally been told in Marrying the Preacher’s Daughter.

Elisabeth’s family moved west to Colorado from back east, and along the way her mother was drowned. Elisabeth had issues getting used to the idea that her father snapped himself up a new wife in Nebraska before they ever reached their destination. But before the end of that story, Josie and Elisabeth came to an understanding , and are close friends when this book begins.

Elisabeth wants a man just like her father. Someone wise and upstanding, a man who lives by God’s Word and is an example to the community. She has high ideals and lofty expectations.

Enter Gabe Taggart, bounty hunter. Now Elisabeth doesn’t know he’s a bounty hunter when she meets him. He’s keeping that under his cowboy hat. But she does know he’s dangerous, because he’s lying shot in their family home after a gunfight—a gunfight she instigated—but she won’t admit to that. Her father is perturbed with her and insists it’s her job to take care of the man, since she got him shot up in the first place, so like the obedient daughter she is, she’s waiting on the irritating man hand and foot. Her charity and good will are soon spread pretty thin however.

Gabe only cares about keeping his secret and creating a home for the sister he placed in a boarding school. She has graduated and wants to come set up house with her big brother. Irene arrives sooner than expected, and she sure isn’t the quiet, studious little girl he remembers. She’s a full-blown suffragette, with contacts in important circles. Between his outrageous sister and his feisty caregiver, his future is not living up to his peaceful expectations. Worse yet—the two become fast friends. What’s a man to do?

This story is filled with gunfire, kisses, and a few good laughs. But it’s also a poignant look into healing for the grieving process and an example of how God responds to faith. I hope you will find a copy and let me know what you think.

I’m giving away autographed  copies to TWO PEOPLE who click through to my trailer on YouTube, LIKE it and leave a comment here to tell me they did so. The traffic should generate interest for the book.

CLICK HERE FOR TRAILER ON YOUTUBE

Thank you for visiting today!


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READ CHAPTER ONE
Marrying the Preacher’s Daughter
by Cheryl St.John
Colorado June, 1876

“Toss your guns down now!” a male voice shouted. “Hands in the air.”

Elisabeth Hart couldn’t see past the layers of netting on a woman’s hat in front of her, but sounds of alarm rippled through the passengers who sat in the forward rows. The interior of the railcar was sweltering beneath the midday sun, and she blotted her eyes and forehead with her lace-trimmed handkerchief. What should have been a routine stop along the tracks to take on water had become life-threatening.

Thuds sounded as firearms hit the aisle. A man in a battered hat and wearing a faded bandanna over the lower half of his face came into view. Eyes darting from person to person, he snatched up the guns.

Another masked bandit appeared in the wake of the first. Sweat drenched the front of his dusty shirt. “Turn over all your cash and jewelry. Ladies’ bags, too, and none of you gets shot.”

Two more thieves held open gunnysacks and gathered the looted items.

Fear prickled at Elisabeth, but a maelstrom of rebellious anger made her tremble. How dreadful of these men to point guns and make demands. Every fiber of her being objected to their lack of concern for the safety of the passengers and the downright thievery.

She turned to the tall, quiet man who’d been sitting beside her on the aisle side of the bench seat since they’d left Morning Creek, noting the way his hat brim shaded piercing green eyes. He watched the gunman with intense concentration, but made no move to stop what was happening. “Aren’t you going to do something?” she whispered.

The man cast her a glare that would have scorched a lesser woman. One eyebrow rose and he gave an almost imperceptible shake of his head.

“They’re going to rob us,” she insisted. “You still have your gun. I saw it inside your jacket when you leaned to lower the window earlier.”

He focused on the man wielding the revolver, but spoke to her. “Can you count, lady? Just give ’em what they want so nobody gets hurt.”

“But—”

Pausing beside them, the masked robber pointed his gun directly at her seat partner’s chest. The man gave Elisabeth a pointed glare and calmly raised his hands in the air before looking up.

“Right in here,” the robber said.

The seated man handed him a coin purse and tossed several silver dollars and his pocket watch into the bag.

The barrel of the gun swung to Elisabeth. “Lady?”

Elisabeth’s temper and sensibilities flared, but fear kept her silent. Her heart beat so frantically, she thought her chest might burst. She wanted to refuse, but didn’t want anyone to get hurt. Begrudgingly, she forfeited her black velvet chatelaine pocket with the silver handle and removed the gold bracelet she’d received for her last birthday, dropping both into the burlap sack.

The robber pointed at her neck. “You got a chain under there.”

She clapped her hand protectively over the plain gold ring that rested on a chain beneath her damp and wrinkled cotton shirtwaist. “This was my mother’s!”

“Just give it to him,” the green-eyed stranger cajoled in his maddeningly calm manner.

“Now just wait,” Elisabeth argued with a glare. “You don’t understand. This was my mother’s wedding ring.”

The stranger gave her a quelling look that singed her eyelashes. Passengers called out their displeasure and shouted for her to give up her jewelry same as they had.

The ring was all she had of her mother. Since she’d drowned, Elisabeth had worn it every day…and tried to fill the woman’s shoes. The wedding band symbolized Elisabeth’s childhood and her sacrifices. Parting with it would break her heart…but she didn’t want to be the cause of anyone getting shot. What would her father have to say in this situation?

She closed her eyes. Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. Her true treasures were in heaven. The ring wasn’t as important as the lives at stake.

The robber leaned down close as if he meant to take the ring from her neck. She raised her hand to her throat to prevent him from touching her. She could do this on her own. He grabbed Elisabeth’s collar and yanked so hard that she jerked forward and the top button popped off.

In that same second, a grim click sounded. The bandit paused dead still.

Elisabeth stared into his shining dark eyes, and the moment stretched into infinity. She could hear her blood pulsing through her veins, her breath panting from between her dry lips. Was this the day she was going to die and meet her Maker?

“Take your hands off the lady, or you’re dead.” From beside her, the stranger’s low-timbered voice was calm, but laced with lethal intent. The hair on Elisabeth’s neck stood up.

No one else was privy to the robber’s predicament. The green-eyed man’s gun was still concealed between the two men, the business end jammed up against the robber’s belly. Elisabeth dared a glance and saw the stranger’s other hand clamped over the man’s wrist, keeping that revolver pointed toward the floor and protectively away from her.

What could only have been seconds, but seemed like an hour, passed with their ragged breaths loud and the tick of a pocket watch encroaching on her consciousness.

“We ain’t got all day, Hank!” one of the other thieves shouted.

The robber leaning over her attempted to move, and pandemonium broke loose. A shot rang out and Elisabeth’s rescuer grunted in pain. The robber tugged at Elisabeth’s collar, and the man beside her fired his gun.

The stench of gunpowder stung her nose. Men shouted. Women screamed. Elisabeth watched the events unfold in a haze of fear and disbelief.

The man who’d threatened Elisabeth crumpled, slumping sideways over the back of a seat. A horrifying crimson blotch spread across his shirtfront. She covered her mouth with her hand to keep from crying out.

The stranger leaped from his seat with his arm outstretched. “Get down!” he bellowed. A rapid succession of shots nearly deafened her. She cupped her hands over her ears, belatedly realizing he’d been ordering her to get down. Praying for safety for the other passengers, she folded herself onto the floor and knelt with her heart pounding. The shock of seeing that man shot and bleeding stole her breath.

Minutes passed with her thoughts in chaos. Would she see her family again? If the stranger protecting her had been shot, maybe other people were being killed or injured, and all because she’d delayed. She’d been going to give him the ring.

An eerie silence followed in the wake of the previous pandemonium, and it took a few minutes to comprehend what that could mean.

The sound of hesitant footsteps and voices told her the battle was over. She opened eyes she hadn’t realized were squeezed shut, unfolded her body and peered over the seat in front of her.

One of the male passengers had picked up the gunny-sacks and now doled possessions back to their owners. In numb silence, she accepted her monogrammed velvet pocket and gold bracelet from his outstretched hand while her mind struggled to comprehend what was going on around her. A conductor and several other railroad men stepped over prone bodies on the floor. The sight made her stomach lurch. Elisabeth could only stare in numb disbelief.

One of the uniformed men made his way to the stranger who was seated on a bench with his back against the side of the railcar, his hand pressed to his ribs. “Find something for bandages!”

Spurred out of her frozen state of shock, Elisabeth straightened and stepped into the aisle. She raised her hem and, holding it in her teeth, tore a wide strip from her petticoat. “Here.”

Others provided handkerchiefs and scarves, and the conductor handed over the wad of material for the fellow to press against the wound. “Sit tight,” he said. “We’ll get you to the doctor in Jackson Springs quick as we can.”

Several men dragged the robbers’ bodies to the back of the car, the dead men’s boot heels painting shiny streaks of blood on the wooden floor. Her stomach roiled and she thought she might be sick.

“Are you all right?”

She swung her gaze to those green eyes, now dark with pain. “Y-yes, I’m fine.”

Had he killed all of those men? He made a halfhearted attempt to sit a little straighter, but grimaced and stayed where he was.

He’d probably saved her life. Without a doubt he’d saved her from losing her precious ring. She perched on the edge of the seat beside his leg, and reached to replace his hand with hers, pressing the cloth against his cream-colored shirt, where it was soaked with blood that flowed from his side. “I’m Elisabeth Hart.”

“Gabe Taggart,” he replied.

“That was a very brave thing you did.”

His expression slid into a scowl. “Didn’t have much choice after the stupid thing you did.”

Taken aback, she was at a loss for words. Before that horrible man had reached for her, she’d been prepared to hand over the ring. Now she felt foolish for ever hesitating.

Steam hissed and the train jerked into motion, picking up speed along the tracks. The stranger winced at the jerking movement. The woman who’d been sitting behind them made her way along the aisle in the rocking car. “Thank you for rescuing us,” she said to Gabe.

Casting a disapproving scowl at Elisabeth, she returned to her seat. Elisabeth glanced at a few of the other occupants of the railcar and noted an assortment of scathing looks directed toward her. None of them understood the value she placed on the ring or the reason for her delay. She hadn’t meant to endanger anyone.

Silently, she prayed for his life, asking God to forgive her for putting him at risk because of her selfish attachment to an earthly treasure. Out of habit, she reached into the jacket pocket of her traveling suit and rubbed a smooth flat stone between her fingers. The keepsake was one of several she’d picked up during her family’s perilous journey to Colorado. The stones reminded her of the sacrifice and dedication that had brought them to a new state and a new life.

The train rocked and turned a bend. Several other passengers expressed their thanks to Gabe as the train neared its destination. When at last they reached Jackson Springs, the tale spread to the baggage men and the families waiting on the platform. Several men carefully loaded Gabe Taggart into the bed of a wagon and drove him away.

Grateful this particular chapter of her life was over and that Taggart would be getting medical attention now, Elisabeth released a pent-up breath and joined the others disembarking.

“Thank the Lord, you’re safe.”

Elisabeth turned with relief and embraced her stepmother, their bodies separated by the girth of Josie’s growing belly beneath her pretty green day dress.

“What happened to that man?” her six-year-old half brother Phillip asked. He had shiny black hair like their father’s and a sprinkling of freckles across his nose and cheeks.

“He prevented robbers from stealing our things,” Elisabeth answered, trying to keep panic and guilt from her voice.

“Lis-bet, Lis-bet!” Peter and John, the three-year-old twins, jumped up and down waiting for her to greet them.

She picked up Peter first, kissing his cheek and ruffling his curly reddish hair. After setting him down, she reached for John. He kissed her cheek, leaving a suspiciously peppermint stickiness on her skin.

Josie turned and motioned forward a slender dark-haired young woman that Elisabeth had assumed was waiting for another passenger. “This is Kalli Tyler. She’s my new helper. Your father thought I needed someone full-time, and I didn’t argue. She’s a godsend, truly. You two are going to get along well.”

“I’ve heard all about you,” Kalli said with a friendly dimpled smile. “Are you sure you’re all right?”

“Yes, I’m fine.” She kept her voice steady, but her in-sides quivered in the aftermath of that drama. She collected herself to study the other young woman.

As her father’s assistant, the notary public and a tutor, Elisabeth did have her hands full. It was wise of Father and Josie to hire additional help. At seventeen and sixteen, her sisters, Abigail and Anna, were busy with school, studies and social activities, and their bustling household did need extra assistance to keep things running smoothly.

“I brought a wagon and Gilbert,” Josie told her. “You had bags, and I’m not up to the walk.”

“Of course,” Elisabeth answered. “Phillip, help me find my bags, please.”

She turned toward the pile where luggage was being stacked just as two men carried one of the robbers from the train on a stretcher. He’d been shot in the chest and his vest was drenched with dark glistening blood. The man was quite plainly dead.


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If you’re blog hopping today, I’m at Seekerville http://seekerville.blogspot.com/ and

I’m the Spotlight Author at Love Western Romances this month! http://www.lovewesternromances.com/