Category: Giveaways

The Legend of … TORTELLINI! by Pam Crooks

It’s National Tortellini Day!

There’s a “National Day” for everything, it seems, right? But this one caught my eye because, well, who doesn’t love tortellini?

I don’t recall my mother ever making it. Being Italian, my family had plenty of pasta in our lives, but we were pretty much restricted to spaghetti, mostaccioli, macaroni, bow ties, and occasionally orzo.  (Although, in fairness, grocery stores in my day were decidedly limited compared to the super-stores we shop at today,)

So I began wondering just how long has tortellini been around?  Macaroni has been available in mercantiles throughout the west, and the noodles filled many a cowboy’s stomach, but something as fancy as tortellini?

Well, lo and behold, tortellini has been around a lo-ong time.

Legend claims that Tortellini was inspired by the goddess Venus’ navel. An Italian medieval legend tells how Venus and Zeus, weary one night after their involvement in a battle between Bologna and Modena, arrive at a tavern in a small town on the outskirts of Bologna. After eating a hearty dinner and becoming slightly drunk, they decide to share a bedroom. The innkeeper, captivated after watching them, creeps to their room and peeks through the keyhole of the bedroom door. However, all he can see through the keyhole is the navel of Venus. This vision leaves him spellbound – so much so that he immediately rushes to the kitchen and creates a pasta inspired by Venus’ navel…and so was born the Tortellini.

—www.barilla.com

Cool, eh?  Fun, fascinating, and true?  Maybe. Maybe not.

It’s a legend, right? But I’ll bet you’ll always remember that tortellini was inspired by a famous goddess’ belly button!  I know I will.

How about I share a super-simple and refreshing salad recipe?

Tortellini Caesar Salad

Dressing:

3 Tb lemon juice

2 Tb water

1 1/2 Tb vegetable oil

1 tsp anchovy paste

1/8 tsp ground pepper

1 close garlic, crushed

Salad:

9 oz cheese tortellini, cooked, drained, and cooled

1 head lettuce, cut up

Plenty of FRESH grated parmesan cheese

Combine dressing ingredients and whisk well.

Place lettuce and tortellini in a large bowl. Toss in dressing and top with parmesan cheese.

Serve cold.

**Note: I never make the dressing included in the recipe but use a good bottle of Caesar salad dressing. The above recipe is low in calories, but the dressing is what a salad is all about, right? 

Happy National Tortellini Day!

How about you? Do you love legends?  What’s your favorite? Robin Hood? Lady Godiva?

Do you love pasta? How do you prepare your tortellini?

Please share, and since Valentine’s Day is TOMORROW, I’ll send one of you who comments this gold, sparkly, heart-shaped bottle opener!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

 

                                                         

              AMAZON                                                                                                  AMAZON

Updated: February 13, 2020 — 10:54 am

THE EAGLE AND THE FLAME — New Release & e-book Give-Away

Howdy!  Welcome to another terrific Tuesday!

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.

Excerpt:

 

PROLOGUE

 

The Wild West Series

Book One

The Assiniboine Sioux Reservation

Northeastern Montana

May 1884

 

 

 

          “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…. 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER ONE

May 1884

 

 

“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, wacéwicawecioiya,

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)

Waka?tanka, oi?iya.”

 

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.

 

 

CHAPTER TWO

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.

          Blast!

          The explosion was unexpected.  The match was finished, wasn’t it?  If so, why was Captain Hall still firing at her?

          Boom!

          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.

          Blast!

          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.

Buy THE EAGLE AND THE FLAME on Amazon!

Updated: February 11, 2020 — 8:21 am

Ruthy’s Winners!

Let me blast the January winners since I forgot to do that in early January (Shame on me!!!) Winners of “A Hopeful Harvest” are….

ALICIA HANEY!

ROSIE!

TERESA!

Then, from yesterday’s post, we have two winners of “Learning to Trust”!!!

ESTELLA!

HEATHER!

This is my mailing week (yes, I only mail things once/month, that’s a dreadful system but I don’t seem to be able to break the habit… but I make great cookies, so there’s that. 🙂  )

Updated: February 7, 2020 — 7:13 am

Winter on the Farm

Winter!!!!

It’s a whole other season when you’re the resident writer on a farm.

When the busyness of our crazy September-October selling season draws to a close, my life takes an abrupt turn, kind of like those country roads with the “Sharp Curve Ahead” signs.

Quick turns can be the lights or sorrows of life.

 

Come the first of November I trade my farm boots (most days) for a writing hat (not really, I’m inside, so I don’t wear a hat, sillies! But you get the gist.) 🙂 And holiday Grandma and Mom hat… and grandmother to track runners and basketball players and soccer cuties hat.  And honestly, it’s so much fun to go back to the other normal. You guys know what I mean, it’s like the end of summer vacation, how you’re just ready for some sort of schedule again.

I’ve learned to never schedule a deadline in December. I work all year, in the middle of the night, but after a couple of early career December deadlines, I realized two things:

  1. A lot of publishing kind of shuts down in December so everything takes longer, therefor why rush????
  2. I want my Christmas prep, my Advent season, to be focused on faith and family and if I have a deadline looming, I have to juggle a really important plate that can’t be dropped…. and I learned years ago to keep Christmas as simple and faith-filled as I could, so freeing up my schedule for just writing and blogging that month is plenty!

This way I don’t have to fret over changed schedules, flu outbreaks, kids that need watching, Grandmas that need help, (those older Grandmas, the “Gee-Gees” in a family) because that’s how it happens, right?  We did our Gingerbread House day in early January because everyone got sick on Christmas vacation! Oh, those germs!!!

A Gingerbread Village!!!!! With a train!!!

 

Gluing the houses together with frosting… So important!

And a darling girl with an artistic flare!

So we got that done in January…. and then there was this:

 

DEER VS. CHEVY CRUZE…

 

Needless to say, neither the car nor the deer came out of this well.

So the car went off to salvage land, the deer went to wherever deer go and Farmer Dave walked away from  it, so all is well!

A fun, at the farm birthday party for a five-year-old cutie, and a cute rainbow cookie cake!

Kitchen success with Jambalaya recipe… Available over at Yankee-Belle Cafe, a cooking and lifestyle blog with some great authors.

And then total Kitchen Fail with a new cheesecake recipe!

Look at this…. SIGH….. Little Lena was helping, and I think we seriously over-mixed the cheese mixture because this is a mess!!!!

BUT OUR DINOSAUR FOSSILS CAME OUT GREAT! Lena and I are working on a dino-themed preschool unit, and the “fossils” were a lot of fun.

And know those snow pics I love to share????????

Farm boys in the January rain!!!!!! Pouring rain…. but like 60 degrees, so where did that come from?

But throughout all of this I’ve been busily writing. I finished editing “Finding Peace in Wishing Bridge” and that will be released from Amazon (Kindle and paperback) on March 2nd!

 

And I got a mystery proposal approved, so that’s next on my agenda, to finish that mystery and get it polished this winter…

 

And then there’s this!!!! I just got copies of my 2nd Golden Grove book (and I forgot to pick a winner from last month’s post, totally my fault, so I’m going to pick three winners from that post… and they are:

  1.  Teresa!

     2.   Rosie!

     3.  Alice Haney

AND…. two winners of the April book, Golden Grove 2, “Learning to Trust”!!!

And this is mailing week, so if you get your addresses to me, I’m sending everything on my list out this coming week, so I can check those boxes off for now!  My email is loganherne@gmail.com!

 

 A second beautiful love story set in Central Washington state, a place I absolutely love!

So there you go. That’s how my January’s gone. All the aspects of normal crazy that we call life, but so many blessings, too.

So how has your January been?

Tell me below and I’ll put your names in for one of the “Learning to Trust” copies!

 

To Tame A Texas Cowboy — Available Now

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.”

“Smart woman.”

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?”

“Yup.”

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.

 

Updated: February 4, 2020 — 9:20 pm

An Eccentric Texan

Texas has it’s share of eccentric millionaires, but there was one in my hometown who raised the bar for others…not just for his philanthropy, but because of the art work and creativeness he gave to our community even after his death.

Stanley March 3, notice not a Roman Numeral III. He said the III was way too pretentious for his liking.  He was well-known for his outrageous art projects. The one that earned him national notoriety is the 1970s Cadillac Ranch. If you’ve ever driven on Interstate 40 just west of Amarillo you can’t help but notice the Cadillacs planted nose-down in a field to the south of the highway. The trunks and tail-fins of these former gas guzzler’s extend above ground, like whale flukes that become visible just before the big mammals dive…all colorful and personalized by millions of travelers and locals.

Although Marsh had to move the project to stay clear of our urban sprawl, Cadillac Ranch is still open to the public. In fact, visitors are encouraged to participate in the project by spray-painting graffiti on the rusted hulks. Periodically, some are painted in a solid color, so new art work can be added by travelers. It’s a must see when visiting our area.

I can’t help but post a picture of my youngest grandson, who is now in high school, at the ranch in front of one of our famous tumbleweeds a/k/a Russian Thistle. This proves everything in Texas is bigger than life.

Another roadside sculpture closer to Amarillo on the Frying Pan Ranch, one of the original ranches in our area, commissioned by Marsh is the “Two vast and trunkless egs of stone”. It was inspired by the work of British poet Percy Shell, in his 1818 sonnet, Ozmandias. It consists of two legs–one 24 feet tall, the other 34 feet. Like Marsh’s Cadillac Ranch, this art project on their ranch is subject to the occasional gratuitous paint job, and the feet have been seen adorned with sports socks.

The third unique thing that Marsh added to our city are hundreds of bogus highway signs proclaiming surprise announcements or posting questions, such as “What is a village without village idiots?”. They showed up unexpectedly in people’s yards, as well as public places, although many are gone now. Marsh was quoted as saying, “Art is a legalized form of insanity, and I do it very well.”.

Do you have anyone in your own who is eccentric enough to leave their footprints all over the area?  I’d love to hear about them.

To two winners who leave a comment, I will give them an eBook of my latest Contemporary Romance Out of a Texas Night.

 

 

Updated: February 1, 2020 — 4:00 pm

Welcome, Carolyn Brown!

Today Carolyn Brown rides into the Junction to talk about her new book, Cowboy Courage, and the give away of signed copy of the book! Welcome, Carolyn!

Thank you to the fillies here at Petticoats and Pistols for inviting me to prop up my boots here on their front porch for a little while today. Y’all all grab a sweet tea and some cookies and let’s talk about Cowboy Courage, that just hit the shelves a couple of days ago.

When I first started this series, it was going to be three books, and then Emily Baker married the young brother, Justin, who was co-owner of the Longhorn Canyon. She had two brothers, Tag and Hud, back home out in the Texas Panhandle, and they missed their sister, so they bought the ranch next to The Longhorn Canyon. They brought along the Callahan brothers with them to help run their ranch and suddenly the series grew to seven books. Cowboy Courage is Hud’s story and it’s the sixth book in the series. CowboyStrong will be out in June and the series will officially wind up in the fall with a novella about Dixie and Landon, two secondary characters in Cowboy Courage and Cowboy Strong.

That said, let’s talk about Hud and Rose, the hero and heroine of Cowboy Courage. Writing about these two was so much fun that I dragged my feet on the last few chapters. I simply didn’t want to tell them goodbye. They met years ago when Rose went to school out in the panhandle with Hud, but then she moved away, and they never saw each other again. Evidently, first love, even if it does involve two fourteen-year-old kids, is difficult to forget. When they are reunited in Bowie, Texas, the old flame is still burning brightly.

After spending years traveling the world with the military, Rose O’Malley is ready for a change. Heading back to Texas to hold down the fort at her aunt’s bed-and-breakfast will give Rose just the break she needs. But while she may speak seven languages, she can’t repair a leaky sink to save her life. When Hudson Baker strides in like a hero and effortlessly figures out the fix, Rose can’t help wondering if the boy she once crushed on as a kid could now be her saving grace.
Hud has always been rock-solid and dependable-a quintessential cowboy to his core. But the moment Rose steps back into his life, his world is turned upside down by meddling family, a rescued baby, and one highly mischievous cat. Now he’ll have to decide if it’s time to throw caution to the wind and do whatever it takes to convince Rose that by her side is exactly where he wants to stay.

This book includes a first time ever in print novella, Wildflower Ranch, a continuation of Daisies in the Canyon. My readers have asked me for Shiloh and Bonnie’s stories for years. This is Shiloh’s story. Bonnie’s will be included in Cowboy Strong.

What is your favorite? Stand alone stories? Series? If you like series, what do you consider to be too many? Is three a good number or is seven plus a final novella something you’d consider a perfect number?

I will give away a signed copy of Cowboy Courage. Y’all pull up a rocking chair and prop your boots up on the porch rail with me. Got questions? I’ll be dropping by several times throughout the day to answer them!

Montana Dad by Jeannie Watt and a Give Away!

I’m so excited that my next book will be out on February 1st, three short days from now!

Montana Dad is the second of my Sweet Home Montana series about the Callahan family, which is part of the wholesome Harlequin Heartwarming line. 

Before I tell you about the story, I want to mention that Harlequin has updated their covers starting this month, and Montana Dad is among the first in the re-brand. I’m thrilled with this cover, which really speaks to the special relationship Nick Callahan has with his two little girls.

Nick Callahan is a widowed dad who recently moved back home to the Callahan ranch so that his daughters will be closer to his mom and sister. Alexandra Ryan has moved across the country to live in her aunt’s isolated house next to the Callahan ranch because she believes she’s being stalked by associates of her former boss, who absconded with a great deal of money. Things come to head when Nick asks for access across her land while his bridge is being repaired. Alex says no, then discovers that the locals don’t take it well when someone messes with their neighbors.

Here is an excerpt:

Alex Ryan climbed out of her car and stalked toward Nick with murder in her eyes. Apparently he had something to answer for, which was odd, because wasn’t he the one getting screwed over in this deal? Wasn’t he the one who quite literally had to traverse ten miles of bad road to get home?

She came to a stop a few feet away and pointed a finger at him. “You had me blackballed at the lumber store.”

“Cooper’s Building Supply?”

“Yes.”

“I didn’t.”

She gave him a puh-leeze look as her green gaze burned into him. “I’ll drive to Missoula to get what I need. And you can enjoy the fact that you’re putting me out, but remember this—petty revenge is bad for the soul.”

“I’ll remember that when I take the ten-mile detour to my ranch.” He folded his arms over his chest and looked down at her. Steam was practically coming out of her ears. “And if I engaged in vengeful behavior, it’d be a lot more creative than having someone blackballed at Cooper’s.” His voice was little more than a growl, but it must have carried, because he heard the wheels of a grocery cart come to an abrupt halt behind him, then start moving again.

“People are looking,” Alex said in a hissing whisper.

“Of course they’re looking. Wouldn’t you?” He glanced over to see Mary Watkins and her three kids staring at them as they loaded their SUV with groceries. And the cart that had stopped so abruptly behind him was being pushed by Lester Granger, who would totally enjoy spreading this tale at the co-op coffee klatch. Nick smiled tightly and raised a hand at his neighbors.

Nothing to see here, folks.

Mary waved back.

When Nick shifted his attention back to Alex, she let out a breath that seemed to come from her toes. “I need to go.”

The expression she’d worn when he’d come to her ranch that first day was back. Half cautious, half defiant. Fully self-protective. What was this woman running from? Was she a criminal? An abused wife on the run? His gaze strayed to her ring finger, which was bare and showed no signs of a ring having been recently removed. Okay, probably not married, but one didn’t need to be married to be abused, and she was as jumpy as he would expect an abuse victim to be. She’d asked him not to judge until he knew her circumstances. Fair enough. Of course, it’d be nice if she explained her circumstances, but he didn’t see that happening anytime soon.

“I’ll talk to Emmie at the building-supply store.”

“I…” She swallowed, obviously not expecting the gesture. “Thank you.” It was as if politeness was so deeply engrained in her that now that her anger had faded, she couldn’t simply get in the car and slam the door like she so obviously wanted to.

“You’re welcome,” he replied. She was there, living on the property he’d wanted, and avoiding her wasn’t going to change the situation. “What did you need at the building supply?”

“A hinge. I’m fostering a dog. I have to have a secure enclosure.”

If you would like to win a copy–print or digital–of the first book in the series A RANCH BETWEEN THEM, just let me know in the comments. I’ll announce a winner on Friday.