Good Morning to you all!

Because I have a new book that’s just come out (April 6th), I thought I might post an excerpt of the new book.  Now, I am going to be giving out a copy of the new book, SENECA SURRENDER, to some blogger today.  So come on in and leave a comment.  🙂

In this excerpt, the heroine, Sarah, is abducted by enemy Indians, the Ottawa.  I must warn you. that this excerpt contains images and narrative of torture.  

Seneca+Surrender[1]“Evening came at a much faster pace than Sarah would have liked.  At present, she and her two captors had stopped and set up camp.  Sarah was sitting upright against a tree, tied to it with a rope around her waist; also there was one tied around her hands, which had been positioned in front of her.  The rope around her hands chafed and cut into her skin, and she could see blood oozing from the sores.  The rope around her waist, though restrictive, was merely uncomfortable.  Looking down, she despaired at the state of her skirts and her bodice, which were both torn and frayed, and her pettiocats, which were both beyond repair.  Plus, to her shame, these men hadn’t granted her the courtesy to allow her to relieve herself along the trail.  Somewhere in their trek this day, nature had had its way.

She’d never felt so wretched, nor so dirty.

The two Indians were busying themselves with a fire, and it was a big one.  They said nothing to her — not that she would have been able to understand them had they tried.  But human decency would have thought they would have at least ventured to attempt it.

What were they planning for her?  The question was one that was likely to drive her mad if she didn’t gain an answer to it, and soon.  If her death were fated this night, knowing it seemed more preferable than being caught unaware.

Of course, she’d never been more frightened.  Nor had she ever felt more alone.  Death awaited.  She knew it.  It was there in the way those men looked at her, and in the way they treated her.

But how were they going to go about it?  Was it to be painful?

There was every indication that it would be so.  Even now, she watched them as they sharpened their knives and their tomahawks.  They were even priming their weapons.

Where was White Thunder?

Many hours had passed since her capture.  Hours that had been spent fleeing along an obvious trail, her feet flying over ground covered with moss, slime and dead leaves.  At times she’d been dragged when she’d fallen and couldn’t keep up with the pace.  During those times, it had always been a struggle to get back to her feet.  Sometimes she’d managed it, sometimes they had simply dragged her.

Surely they had left tracks that White Thunder could follow…if he were still alive.

Presently, one of the Indians rose to his feet and stepped toward her.  Watching him, realizing that his intention toward her was hardly social, she gathered her courage.  Without warning, he flew at her and grabbed a handful of her hair.  He pulled, practically plucking it out by its roots.  Then he spit upon it.  Then her.

He said, “Your…husband…dead.  No sign…him.”sf[6]

Sarah looked away from him, but the warrior forced her face back toward him.

“Our brother…killed.  English, too,  kill…my father.  You…pay.  Will die in fire.”

Though the Indian held her face so she couldn’t glance away.  Sarah refused to look at him, her gaze centered downward.  Tears slipped over her cheeks.

“You cry now…cry more…later.  Torture first…before fire.  You feel…much pain.”

He untied her from the tree.


He put some effort into making her rise, but Sarah refused to obey.  If she were to be tortured, then die by the fire, why make it easy for him by cooperating?  If the only defiance she had left in her was to sit while he wanted her to stand, then that was exactly waht she would do.

He pulled her roughly to her feet, but she immediately sank to the ground.  The warrior repeated the same procedure twice.

Had it not been so serious, Sarah thought the situation might have appeared humorous.  It as, however, anything but amusing.

Eventually, because the warrior couldn’t force her to stand, he let her sit.  He came down onto his haunches before her and stuck his face in hers, smiling.  His image was a horrible thing to behold, for his face was painted black, and the stark contrast to the white of his teeth made him resemble a walking skeleton.

All at once, he sliced away the bodice of her gown, as well as the sleeves of her chemise, leaving a large, red cut across her chest and exposing her entire upper body to the cold night air.  Involuntarily, her cry shot thorough the night.

He tried to tear away her skirt, also, but she wore so many petticoats, her outer one being buckskin, that it became impossible.  Eventually he gave up and said, “No matter.  Soon you…feel manhood.”  And he ripped away his breecloth, exposing a man partially aroused.

Sarah was sickened by the sight of him, by his smell and by the idea of what he intended to do to her.  Indeed, what food she had left in her stomach, she lost.

But there was no mercy to be found in this Ottawa warrior’s manner.  He laughed and squatted in front of her again.

Sarah gasped as he took out his knife and once more brandished it in front of her.  He brought it toward her, slowly, slowly, watching for her reaction like a wolf cornering a rabbit.  He sliced off a portion of her hair, grinning at her all the while.  “We do this…all over…body.”

Exposed, vulnerable, Sarah began to wonder if part of the torture were pure fright.  If so, he was being very successful.

Again, he waved that knife in front of her as he once more cut off a portion of her hair.  But this time instead of her stomach losing its dinner, she lost what was left in her small intestines at the other end of her.

It was degrading, and perhaps that’s what decided her.  If this were her fate, then so be it.  The least she could do was to stop cowering in fear.  Since that was exactly what he wanted, then she’d be darned if she would give it to him.

Thus, when next he came close, she took action, doing the first thing she could think of to do.  After all, what did it matter?  They were going to kill her in the most feminine, and probably the most horrible way possible.

She spit in his face.

Immediately he slapped her.  But though the hit stung, it felt good.  it was all she had…defiance…and so long as she was sane, she would resist him to the end.

She hadn’t counted on what happened next, however.  He picked her up by her hair, brought a knife to her scalp and began to cut.

She screamed.  And he laughed, the wickedness of his smile the last thing she beheld before she fell forward into a dead faint.

Seneca+Surrender[1]Yes, this is a romance — and of course it is true romance, and it ends well.  Torture, however, at this time period, was more common than I would like to think.  Anyway, come on in and leave a comment.   I’d love to talk to you.  🙂

SENECA SURRENDER is on sale at bookstores everywhere, in your hometown and also online.  Pick up your copy today.

To Be a Mother Coming in April

stjohn.jpgI had great fun plotting and writing my novella for the April Mother’s Day anthology. It’s always tricky coming up with a Mother’s Day idea. Especially for inspirational romance, because these are sweet romances, so secret babies don’t really work. So I toss out ideas about where children come from and how old they are and who they will belong to. Yes, most ideas have been taken–about 50,000 times–so the plan is to do something unique with what may be a tried and true plot idea.

I can get a whole lot of mileage out of an orphan. When I teach my class on emotions next month: I will be sharing emotional triggers with my class. Triggers are tried and true elements that will endear the characters and evoke emotion from the reader. Mothers and children are good at creating emotional moments–so are children without mothers.

I’d had a heroine in my head for a while–a young woman who’d grown up in an orphanage and didn’t know who her parents were, so Olivia Rose was developed. I got her name from one of my beautiful Anne Geddes coffee table books. Olivia Rose was a baby Anne photographed who drowned a few months after her picture was taken. Being the baby lover I am, I was stricken by that story, and the lovely name stuck with me.

Emily is a young girl with a story much like Olivia’s. She was abandoned and doesn’t know her family. When the school closes, no one comes for her, so Olivia makes it her mission to find this little girl a family.

It’s a fairly simple story really, with a small cast of characters and a plain Montana ranch setting, but I’ve been hearing from those who’ve already read the story that people are considering it one of their favorites of my books. When I think I’ve written a book with an uncomplicated plot and no villain, that kind of reception always surprises me . I guess it just goes to show that everyone does love an orphan.

I’m giving away three copies today. I’ll draw names this evening, so leave me a comment to be entered.

Let me know how you like the trailer!

Book Giveaway!

Vicki LogoWould you like to win an advance copy of Kansas Courtship? It’s my March 2010 release, but  I’m giving away three copies today.  To enter the drawing, just leave a comment below.  I’ll pull three names at random. 

This is Book #3 in the “After the Storm” series, a continuity set in 1860 in High Plains, Kansas, a town that’s been devastated by a tornado.  The first two books are High Plains Bride by Valerie Hansen and Heartland Wedding by Renee Ryan.  We’ll be hearing more from Renee on Saturday.

 Here’s the back cover blurb:

 Rising Storm . . .

Town founder Zeb Garrison is finally getting his wish–a qualified physician is coming to High Plains. Yet when Dr. N. Mitchell turns out to be the very pretty Nora Mitchell, Zeb is furious. The storm-torn town needs a doctor, but Zeb needs someone he can trust–not another woman who’s deceived him. If Nora’s going to change his mind, she’ll have to work fast. All she has is a one-month trial to prove her worth . . . to High Plains and to Zeb.


And here’s an excerpt . . .

Chapter One

 August 1860
High Plains Kansas

      “Look over yonder, missy,” said the old man driving the freight wagon. “That’s where a twister snatched up those children.”Kansas Courtship cropped

     Dr. Nora Mitchell turned on the high seat. With the dusty bonnet shielding her eyes, she looked past Mr. Crandall’s gray beard to a lush meadow. A breeze stirred the grass and she smelled loamy earth. With the scent came a whiff of the mules pulling the three freight wagons the last miles to High Plains. In her black medical bag she had the precious letter from Zebulun Garrison inviting her to interview for her first position as a paid physician.

     Never mind that she’d signed her letter to him as “Dr. N. Mitchell.” What difference did her gender make when it came to practicing medicine? None to her, but it mattered terribly to men with old fashioned ideas.

     She’d lived with that prejudice since the day she’d entered Geneva Medical College, the alma mater of Elizabeth Blackwell, the first female doctor in America. The prejudice had become even more challenging once she graduated. She’d interviewed for fourteen positions in the past year and received fourteen rejections, all because of her gender.

     You’re female, Dr. Mitchell. That makes you unqualified.

     Women shouldn’t be subjected to the vulgarities of medicine.

     Perhaps you can find work as a midwife. That suits your gender.

     She’d been close to despair when a cousin wrote to her about an advertisement in the Kansas Gazette. Wanted: a licensed physician for a new Kansas town. Compensation dependent on experience. Contact Zebulun Garrison, High Plains, Kansas.

     She’d posted a letter to Mr. Garrison immediately. Not only had he offered “Dr. N. Mitchell” an interview, he’d sounded enthusiastic. “Our current doctor is retiring,” he’d written back. “We are a growing a community in need of a skilled practitioner with an adventurous spirit.”

     Nora had pictured bustling shops and a busy church. She’d imagined delivering babies, setting broken bones and treating croup and sore throats. Those expectations had changed as she’d traveled with the Crandalls. She’d split the riding time between Mr. Crandall and his wife, a buxom woman who’d birthed nine children and never stopped talking. As they’d traveled from St. Joseph to Topeka, south to Fort Riley and on to High Plains, the woman had told horrific tales about Kansas weather. Two months ago, a tornado wiped out half of High Plains and devastated a wagon train. Most frightening of all, it had snatched away the children Mr. Crandall just mentioned.


To pre-order from Amazon, click here:   Kansas Courtship, After the Storm.

Good luck to everyone! 

Mail Order Brides~ by Janet Dean

Janet's picture[1]I’m delighted to be back as a guest at Petticoat and Pistols, a blog that’s chockfull of great information! I’ve found myself perusing previous posts, sharing a laugh or a nostalgic sigh as I filled up on historical tidbits.

I’m especially excited that in three days The Substitute Bride, Steeple Hill Love Inspired Historical, will hit the shelves. It was a fun story to write—with a mail-order bride, disgruntled groom and a small, personality-filled town. Here’s a peek:

They Struck a Bargain for Marriage

Fleeing an arranged marriage, debutante Elizabeth Manning exchanges places with a mail-order bride bound for New Harmony, Iowa. Life on the frontier can’t be worse than forced wedlock to pay her father’s gambling debts. But Ted Logan’s rustic lifestyle and rambunctious children prove to be more of a challenge than Elizabeth expects. She doesn’t know how to be a mother or a wife. She doesn’t even know how to tell Ted the truth about her past—especially as her feelings for him grow. Little does she know, Ted’s hiding secrets of his own. When their pasts collide, there’s more than one heart at stake.

Why was Ted disgruntled? When he and Elizabeth are about to speak their vows, the bride suggests one teeny change—the name on the marriage license. J A clear sign trouble lies ahead for this couple.  

 Perhaps you know an interesting or funny incident that took place at a wedding ceremony. If so, please share.   

 As a homemaker and mother, Elizabeth Manning is definitely a “fish out of water.” Yet no matter how inept she is, she never gives up, even finds unique ways to handle the children and her new and very challenging life on the farm. I admire her spirit and fortitude—the same attributes that enabled women to survive the challenges of the West.      

 In my quest for information to write this story a friend suggested I read Hearts West: True Stories of Mail-Order Brides on the Sub brideFrontier. The author Chris Enss relates fascinating stories of men and women who wed sight unseen. My husband and I dated for 2½ years. After we married, it didn’t take long to discover we still had things to learn about one another. All good, of course. LOL Can you imagine the surprises in store for these couples who may have only exchanged a few letters or perhaps a picture and often never met until their wedding day?

 Why did these women leave behind everything and everyone they knew to take the amazing step of marrying a stranger? Some were motivated by the fear of spinsterhood. Others had a desperate need of life’s necessities and hoped for a better life. In today’s world a high percentage of marriages are arranged, a norm for many cultures.

 In the Gold Rush era in America, men in the West needed wives. Men and women seeking a mate placed personal advertisements in newspapers, giving physical description, their financial situation and whom they sought. Throughout the 1870s, 1880s and 1890s a weekly newspaper, The Matrimonial News, printed in both San Francisco, California and Kansas City, Missouri, facilitated matchmaking.

 In Hearts West, I found the mail-order bride account of Eleanor Berry, a teacher from California, particularly interesting. Twenty-two and afraid she’d be a spinster, Eleanor responded to Louis Dreibelbis’ advertisement for a bride. Louis described himself as wealthy and average-looking. Their three month correspondence led to a marriage proposal. Eleanor resigned her teaching position and took a train then a six-horse stagecoach carrying twelve other passengers. The trip was uneventful trip—until four bandits held up the stagecoach. As they were about to use gunpowder to blow the door off a safe onboard, Eleanor protested the loss of the trunk holding her trousseau. When the leader hauled it down, Eleanor noted a jagged scar on the back of his hand. Reaching her destination, Eleanor prepared for the ceremony. Though her groom looked surprised when he saw her and Eleanor thought his voice sounded familiar, the two exchanged vows. As Eleanor signed the marriage license then passed the pen to Louis, she saw that same jagged scar. She screamed and ran upstairs. Louis rode off, wondering how his bride had recognized him as the thief. Eleanor returned home too embarrassed to admit what happened, but when the truth came out, she attempted suicide. The fast action of her guardian and local doctors saved her life. Two months after the robbery, sheriff’s deputies caught up with Louis. He testified against his fellow bandits, was released and given a one-way ticket to his hometown in Illinois, warned never to return to California. Hearts West makes fascinating reading and I recommend it to anyone interested in mail-order bride stories. Though I’m unsure how many marriages occurred, the accounts of those that did prove the outcome of these mail-order bride matches varied from wedded bliss to the misery Eleanor experienced.

 An interesting attempt at meeting the need for wives was devised by Asa Mercer. In 1864 and again in 1866 when men far outnumbered women in Washington Territory, Mercer tried to bring a shipload of marriageable women from the East to Seattle. Bachelors gave Mercer money to finance the trip and bring them back a bride. Delays and other complications hindered the success of Mercer’s plan. The number of the Mercer Maids, as they came to be called, willing and able to make the trip didn’t live up to the expectation of the waiting bachelors who’d paid for a bride, creating quite an uproar when the ship docked five months after it left New York’s harbor. The trip had cost more than Mercer had calculated so he couldn’t refund their money or live up to his promises. Though Mercer’s intentions were good, others intentionally swindled people who paid money for a mail-order mate that never materialized.

 But if not for those brave women who moved west to marry and make a home for their husbands and children—establishing families, as well as founding institutions like churches, schools and libraries, we might not have seen such flourishing civilization of the frontier.  

 Did any of your ancestors marry for convenience? If so, please share their stories.  

 Thanks for chatting at Petticoats and Pistols today. For a chance to win a copy of The Substitute Bride, please leave a comment.

 Visit Janet online at:

Email her

Kate Bridges Asks: What Would You Have Been in 1850?

katebridgessmallerwebphoto.jpgHello, friends! It’s been a while since I’ve visited and I’m glad to be back to catch up with everyone.

One of the things that excites me about writing historicals is researching the occupations from way back when. Some of the jobs sound so adventurous.

In Wyoming Territory, women got the right to vote earlier than in most other places. In 1869, in fact. When the Territory debated whether to join the Union, the other states asked Wyoming to drop the right for women to vote as a precondition for joining. The men of Wyoming refused, and in 1890, Wyoming became the 44th state of the Union anyway. Hooray for those dashing Wyoming men! As a result of getting the right to vote, women of Wyoming got to serve on juries, be judges, lawyers, court bailiffs, and all sorts of fascinating occupations much sooner than their Eastern counterparts.

gunsOne of my earlier books involved a female gunsmith (THE SURGEON, 2003). That was fun to research. I discovered that not everyone in the Wild West could afford to own an expensive Smith & Wesson or Colt Revolver. Everyday guns (why does that sound odd?) were made by the local clockmaker because he owned some of the same intricate tools needed, and had an eye for detail. In my story, the heroine grew up with a father who held that occupation, and she and her brother picked up the trades. She tries to stick to clockmaking and shuns the weapons, but her expertise is needed in the climax of the book when she has to help the hero deliver several guns custom made (by her) to the villain, with her brother’s life in the balance.

Thinking about livelihoods is what sparked the idea for my current book, ALASKAN RENEGADE.


The heroine is Victoria Windhaven, a nurse stuck in the middle of nowhere who has to do more than what’s required of her since no doctors are around to help. Victoria sets off on a dangerous medical journey through the Alaskan wilderness and needs a bodyguard to protect her. Unfortunately, he’s a man from her past – Brant MacQuaid. Several years ago in St. Louis, he left her sister standing at the altar and Victoria has never forgiven him.

Brant is the son of a governor who has shunned his father’s political footsteps to become a bounty hunter. His family has disowned him for it – but he was traumatized by the murder of his best friend and figures this is his chance to bring criminals to justice in his way. Accompanying them on the trip is an inexperienced and scared young medical student who has a crush on Victoria and complicates everything – also provides some comic relief. The medical student is being pushed to become a doctor by his father, but is trying to decide if that’s who he really wants to be in life. The villain himself is in dire need of medical help for his own injured father, and it becomes a tense showdown for the three travelers to decide if they’re going to help the villain or do him in….and in the meantime battle who they’ve become in their young lives, and the occupations they’ve set out for themselves. And, of course, the wilderness is a very romantic backdrop for the love story!

Here’s a photo of the place I set the story. Isn’t it beautiful?


If you were living in those times, what would you have been?

A judge? A traveling photographer? Candy maker? Railroad worker? Tinsmith? Bootmaker? Explorer? Mapmaker? Casket-measurer (I just threw that one in for fun.) Inventor of fancy notions? Printing press owner? Bar-keep? Saloon girl? Dancer? Restaurant owner? Deputy Marshal? Tailor? Gold miner?

firetruck  clock plants

If I couldn’t choose writing, I would have liked to have been an apothecary. There would have been lots of research and thinking involved, plus I’d get to run my own business and help people in need. And I’d love to work with all those pretty bottles. Being a judge would’ve been interesting, too, although I’m not sure I could control my temper. I’d be like a Judge Judy giving all the criminals lectures. “Did your mama raise you to play with guns? Take your hands off your holsters and stand up straight when you’re talking to me!”

For anyone who leaves a comment or question today, you’ll get your name put into a drawing for a free autographed copy of ALASKAN RENEGADE.

To read an excerpt visit

Love Those Montana Mavericks!

 marry_me_again1What do you think of this cover?

Harlequin/Silhouette is reissuing the Montana Mavericks series. It’s great for the authors whose books are coming out, and great for the readers who missed them the first time. 

I enjoyed writing this book—it’s one of my contemporaries. If you missed it, here’s  all the information.



Marry Me…Again

Silhouette Special Releases

Dec 2009

Montana Mavericks

Contemporary Romance

ISBN: 9780373310692 (#47)

Marrying footloose cowboy Devlin “Devil” Holmes after their heart-stopping one-night stand was the most reckless thing Dr. Brynna Holmes had ever done. With one rough-and-tumble smile he’d lassoed her heart and promised forever. But Brynna was responsible—for her patients and her family—and trusting her fun-loving husband to take care of her didn’t come easily…even after eight months of wedded bliss. Now, with their happily-ever-after jeopardized by painful mistakes and misgivings, could she vow to honor, cherish and love…again?

 Available only through eharlequin:

And – they’re having a buy one get one sale right now!


Chapter One
Eight months ago

“He’s still looking this way,” Emma Carlisle said from behind her third rum and Coke. The animated woman was married and had three teenaged children, but hearing her talk about the tall sandy-haired cowboy at the bar, anyone would think she was a teen herself. In fact, they’d have thought the entire group of nurses were high school sophomores at the mall.

Rae Ann Benton elbowed Brynna. “He’s heading this way. Act like you didn’t see him coming.”

“I didn’t see him coming,” Brynna replied, but her heart had leapt into her throat at the news that the six-foot-something hunk in the slim-fitting jeans, worn cowboy boots and faded chambray shirt was walking toward them. He’d been the subject of their lively discussion and avid appreciation for the last half hour.

When he strolled up to their table and gave a disarming grin, Brynna already knew that his name was Devlin Holmes, that he was better known as Devil and that he worked as foreman at his cousin’s ranch outside town. What she didn’t know—and couldn’t have predicted—was that his flirtatious green eyes would take her breath away when he acknowledged the gathering of women with a polite hello and then singled her out with a confident nod.

“Care to dance?” he asked, his voice a stirring deep baritone that reached her toes.

The jukebox had started a lively Dixie Chicks’ number that did make a person want to get up and move. Brynna never usually drank. Tonight she’d had two drinks and would probably trip and embarrass herself, but what the heck. She couldn’t recall the last time she’d danced. She wanted to dance with him. Her heart-pounding reaction to the guy was crazy.

Rae Ann’s elbow dug into her side so sharply, Brynna practically leaped up out of her seat. If she fell and broke something, she was with the best nurses in the state of Montana, she thought giddily, catching her balance. The handsome fellow gestured toward the dance floor and she led the way across the wooden floor littered with peanut shells, conspicuously aware of his presence close behind her.

She’d showered at the hospital after her shift, changed into jeans and a sleeveless cotton top, and her shoulder-length hair had only begun to dry. She wasn’t wearing a lick of makeup except lip gloss and a little blush she’d found on the top shelf of her locker. She couldn’t imagine why the man of nurse dreams would look twice, let alone ask her to dance.

Dev thought the slender, fresh-faced beauty was the prettiest thing he’d seen in a long time, and she moved with a beguilingly natural sensuality that appealed to him on a purely masculine level. The single young women who normally came into Joe’s Bar were made up for a manhunt—makeup, perfume, tiny T-shirts that bared their midriffs, low-slung jeans that usually revealed tattoos. There were also the older manhunters with more skin covered, but with smiles every bit as predatory.

This young woman’s smile was a little nervous, a lot embarrassed, and even if he hadn’t been coming here and knew she wasn’t a regular, he’d have known just by observing her discomfort. “Name’s Devlin Holmes,” he said, leading her to the small dance floor, where several couples parted to make some space. “Call me Dev.”

“Brynna Shaw,” she said over the blare of the music.

He took her soft yet sturdy hand and led her through the dance steps, and, after a few minutes, she loosened up and seemed to enjoy herself. Her golden-blond hair bounced on her shoulders under the dim lighting. Her expressive brown eyes did something strange to his insides. She smelled like soap and shampoo, mingled with the faintest hint of almond. The alluring smell enticed his senses. The sight and scent of her hair had him wanting to touch it. It had been a long time since a woman had attracted him the way this one did.

Somehow, as soon as he’d seen her, he’d known she was special. Maybe it was the fact that she seemed out of place here or that she was obviously embarrassed and yet pleased by the fact that he’d singled her out that made him want to know her.

Being this close made him want a lot more.

After a line dance and another fast number, a slow Garth Brooks song played. Tentatively, Dev took her hand and drew her close, pleased that she didn’t resist. She rested her other hand on his shoulder and glanced up. Looking into her eyes, his heart increased its speed. He suddenly felt like the luckiest man in Montana. How could he have missed her until now? “You live in town?” he asked.

She nodded. “I have an apartment down the street.”

“I haven’t seen you here before.”

“I usually go straight home after work.”

“Where’s work?”

“The hospital in Whitehorn. I’m also on staff at the clinic here in Rumor.”


“Third-year resident.”

His eyebrows rose. “No wonder you’re tired after work. I’ve seen ER, it looks exhausting.”

The warmth of her genuine laugh wound its way around his heart. He definitely liked making her laugh.

“It’s not quite that exciting,” she denied. “We’re a small town, you know.”

“Just the same, you see all the interesting cases.”

“Well, some.” She shrugged. “I’m an OB/ GYN.”

Dev laughed aloud. “I’m not going to comment.”

“Thank you. I’ve heard them all.”

Her body relaxed even more after their introductions, and within moments, she was leaning into him, her soft curves pressed against the planes of his chest and hips; she fitted there as if she was made for him. He couldn’t believe his good fortune. What had he ever done to deserve this?

After another slow dance, he asked, “Would you like to get a fresh drink and talk for a while?”

To his delight, she agreed. Her friends smiled and waved with waggling eyebrows when he led her to a booth along the back, where the music wasn’t so loud and the lighting was more intimate.

Ignoring them, Brynna tasted the drink the waitress sat on a napkin before her. She’d worked up a thirst. If someone had told her this morning that she’d be dancing with a handsome cowboy, let alone letting him buy her drinks, she’d have ordered them a psych exam. She was the most sensible, least impulsive person on the planet. She never did anything like this.

But it had been a harrowing day at the hospital. She’d lost a mother with leukemia she’d been trying desperately to save. In order to protect her unborn child, the young woman had refused the chemotherapy she needed, so there had been little Brynna could do, except turn her over to the oncology team once the baby was safely delivered.

Even now, thinking about Heidi Price, regret washed over her. The sound of pool balls clacking together and muted cheers came from a side room, and she couldn’t help thinking how odd it always seemed that lives went on unaffected when others were experiencing tragedies.

As though sensing the shift in her mood, Dev asked softly, “Something wrong?”

She drew a circle in the condensation her glass had left on the table and spoke the difficult words. “I lost a patient today.”

“That must be tough.”

Brynna agreed. “She was twenty-four. Had leukemia, but refused treatment because of her baby.”

“I guess there wasn’t much you could do.”

“It was frustrating.”

“What about the baby?”

Gauging his sincerity, she gazed into his eyes. His earnest tone and concerned expression showed he really cared. “She’s four weeks early, but doing just fine.”

“That’s good.”

His compassion touched her, and Brynna nodded. “I had to tell her husband that his wife didn’t make it.”

He studied her for a moment. “How do you do that?”

“Well…I’ve never had to do it before. I was taught to explain the facts. Answer the questions. But then you see the pain…the grief…and….” Brynna’s throat tightened with the words and the remembrance. She had felt like crying all afternoon, but she hadn’t allowed herself to let go. She was a professional.

“And what?” Dev asked, urging her to go on.

This man not only had her examining her inner feelings, but sharing them. She found herself saying things she didn’t share with anyone else. “I don’t know how to detach and be merely the doctor and not a caring person,” she admitted.

“You are a caring person, or you probably wouldn’t be a doctor. The two aren’t separate, are they?”

With a lump in her throat, she shook her head.

His hand covered hers then, warm tactile comfort that sent an enticing shiver up her arm. Without conscious thought, Brynna turned over her hand and laced her fingers through his, their palms touching. His tanned hand was large, with long fingers and calluses she felt against her palm—so different from her own—so entirely masculine. It was an intimate touch. A sexy, familiar touch that set off a battery of butterflies in her chest and made her wonder how his hand would feel on other parts of her body.

She should have been ashamed of her thoughts, but the sensual contact released a deeply buried longing—a longing for something more than years of school and work and self-denial. His touch brought her single status sharply into focus.

Face warming uncomfortably, she glanced up to notice his thick blond hair with a ridge where his hat had been and his crescent-shaped eyebrows. Both hair and brows were bleached from the sun. He was strikingly handsome, but there was something even more attractive about him than those intriguing eyes and sexy mouth. The way he looked at her made her think of wet lingering kisses and the slide of bare skin.

The words to a song about slow hands registered in the background. A burning warmth that had begun in her chest flowed through her abdomen and pooled at the center of her femininity. This man’s touch melted her insides. The way he gazed at her had her hot enough to combust. She swallowed and met his sparkling green gaze. Could he tell the effect he had on her?

He smiled, one side of his full lips drawn up in a secret grin that created a sexy dimple in his cheek. Surprising herself, she studied his mouth and wondered what it would feel like to kiss him. Would he be an aggressive kisser? Would his lips taste like the beer in the glass on the table? Would his tongue?

If she didn’t know it was physically impossible, Brynna would have sworn her heart turned completely over in her chest at the thought. The temperature in the room seemed to double. She found it difficult to breathe and inhaled quickly through parted lips.

Dev obviously noted her sharp intake of breath, the parting of her lips, the rise of her chest, and his gaze, glittering with masculine interest, dropped to her breasts before he dragged it back to her mouth. The smile had disappeared from his lips, and his perusal was now surprisingly serious. Had he been imagining kissing her, too?

She didn’t want to let go of his hand, and he didn’t seem inclined to break the contact either. She felt like clinging to him, and it was a good thing the table was between them or she’d have embarrassed herself by pressing against his body and melding into him. Remembering the solid strength of his arms and chest as they’d danced that last dance made her head a little dizzy.

The waitress set down a full glass and a fresh pitcher of beer. Reluctantly, they broke the contact of their entwined fingers, and Dev placed money on the tray. The girl thanked him and picked up Brynna’s empty glass.

Brynna glanced at the gimlet, a lime twist perched on the rim. No wonder she was feeling light-headed. She’d had too many drinks. Obviously the liquor had gone straight to her head for her to be having the dangerous and uncharacteristically erotic thoughts she’d been having about the man sitting across from her.

“I think I’ve had enough,” she said.

When she looked up again, Dev’s brows were drawn together in a question—or was that disappointment?

“Drinks,” she clarified.

His expression smoothed into a lazy smile. “We could order coffee,” he suggested. When she didn’t readily agree, he added, “Or go outside for air.”

As if only just noticing where they were, she glanced around.

Here are my other releases in this series.