Release Day! – Drifter’s Darling

Sep 30, 2016

It’s Release Day for Drifter’s Darling, book 12 in the Culpepper Cowboys series! I know you’ve been waiting for it, so here you go, I won’t make you wait! Get started reading Chapter One right here, and then zip on over to Amazon to pick it up!

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Chapter One

Culpepper, Wyoming had never been a particularly hopping metropolis, but after eight years running the rat race in Denver, it was exactly the speed Elvie O’Donnell was looking for. There were more cows than people per square foot throughout the state, which was good for the vet business Elvie’s brother, Doc, had going in the remote ranching town. It was a vet business Elvie had happily joined when Doc floated the idea to her a couple of months ago. Culpepper was where her heart was.

Culpepper was also a great place to hide.

“Here you go, Raspberry Rush.” Denise Bonneville pulled a tube of lipstick from its display in the cosmetics aisle of Culpepper’s one and only convenience store and handed it to Elvie’s newly-minted sister-in-law, Nancy. “This one will match your complexion much better than the shade I saw you wearing the other day.”

Nancy took the lipstick with a dubious expression. “I’m not used to wearing make-up in the first place.” She rolled the tube in her fingers, reading the ingredients on the back, of all things.

Denise snorted and brushed away Nancy’s comment. “Honey, I’ll help you out all you want.”

“You will?” Nancy’s eyebrows inched up.

“Sure I will. I’ll do your colors too. Oh! Then maybe we can go on a big shopping trip to Cheyenne or something!”

“You planning to do my colors too?” Elvie asked. Her smile reached all the way down to her gut. She hadn’t had a fun group of girl friends since high school.

“I’d love to.” Denise brightened. “Although you’ll be easy to beautify. You’re so pretty already.”

Elvie blushed. The last thing she ever felt was pretty. Competent, yes. Powerful, occasionally. But pretty just wasn’t something she’d ever cared about.

“Thanks,” she managed at last. “I credit whatever prettiness I have to the O’Donnell genes.”

“You guys sure have a lot of them,” Denise grinned, that look coming into her eyes that all women wore when talking about her brothers. “I had such a crush on Doc for all those years. Not that I do now,” she rushed to add for Nancy’s sake, holding up her hands to prove her innocence. “He’s all yours now, and I don’t believe in chasing other women’s men.” She paused. “At least, not anymore.”

Denise’s lighthearted expression drooped. Elvie reached out to squeeze her arm. “We know you don’t.”

“Yeah, and you’re right about the O’Donnell genes,” Nancy said, steered away from the painful subject. “I still can’t believe I managed to bag such a hot guy.”

“They’re all hot, Doc, Sly, and Arch.” Denise perked up a little, then burst into a full, naughty grin. “I don’t know how you and Doc ever manage to leave the bedroom.”

“Let me tell you,” Nancy drawled, arching one eyebrow. “There are days when we don’t.”

“Eew, eew!” Elvie clapped her hands to her ears, laughing. “That’s my brother you’re talking about.”

“Yes it is,” Nancy teased her, licking her lips. She held up her tube of lipstick. “And pretty soon, he’s going to have Raspberry Rush marks all over his body, including his—”

“No!” Elvie laughed even louder. “Who do you think you are, Chastity Culpepper?”

The three of them giggled like a pack of teenagers talking about the guys on the football team. It was the kind of thing that helped Elvie’s soul breathe. The few friends she’d made in Denver didn’t understand why she wanted to leave the vibrant city for Nowheresville, as they called it. But this was it. There was just something about the friendships a girl could make in a small town. These were the ladies she would call in the middle of the night if her crying baby was running a fever.

Not that she had a baby.

Not that she was likely to anytime soon.

“So what shade would you recommend for me?” She turned back to the shelf of cosmetics. “Ooh! I like this one. Cinnamon Sunset.”

She reached for the tube, but Denise pulled it out of her hands. “Not with your coloring. This one is too warm. You need a cooler shade.” She put the Cinnamon Sunset back and reached for a dark rose tube. “This one. Dusty Rose Dreams.”

“Ooh!” Elvie took the tube, and turned to the tiny mirror built into the display, holding the lipstick up to her face. “I like it. Now all I need is someone to make kissy marks all over.”

The other two laughed.

“I’m sure you won’t have any trouble with that,” Denise said, growing wistful again. “Everyone and their brother is probably falling all over you, considering how few women there are around here these days.”

“Not after Sly and Rachel’s stunt,” Nancy corrected her. “The hotel has been packed full of husband-seeking ladies from as far away as Seattle.”

“That was a smart move on my brother’s part,” Elvie added. “And last I heard, Rachel’s underwear company had so many orders that it pushed them way into the black for the year.”

“So she’s going to be able to keep the company?” Nancy asked.

“Yep.” It felt incredibly good to say that.

But as triumphant as Elvie felt, the feeling deflated as soon as she noticed Denise mulling over the lipstick with a sad frown. Elvie exchanged a look with Nancy. Neither of them were going to stand by and let Denise get depressed. Not since discovering how nice the woman really was underneath the layer of prickles and tragedy that Chastity Culpepper had started to scrape away back in the spring.

“I think we need to find a great shade for you,” Elvie said, scanning the tubes of lipstick still in the display.

“Yeah.” Nancy joined in. “We do have a town full of single men, after all. You’re bound to snag one of them.”

“Sriracha Siren?” Nancy held up a spicy-looking tube of lipstick with a hopeful look.

Denise tried to smile. “It’s not going to work,” she sighed.

“Why not?” Elvie put an arm around her and hugged. “If you think it can work for me…”

“Yeah, but you’re thin and pretty and everybody likes you,” Denise said. “I’m fat and mean and I have a reputation.”

“No!”

“That’s not true!”

Elvie and Nancy spoke over each other in their haste to set Denise straight.

Denise held up her hands to stop them. “It’s true. You can’t argue with it. I’m all puffy and doughy.”

“Men like curves on a woman,” Nancy argued.

“And everybody knows all about how mean and spiteful I’ve been all these years,” Denise went on. “I’ve been a royal bee-otch since high school, since Wes Fulbright knocked me up and dumped me.”

“Yeah, well, you ended up with the best part of that whole thing, Destiny,” Elvie argued.

“It’s true, Destiny is an awesome kid,” Nancy agreed.

“She is,” Denise admitted.

“She’s been a super big help over at the clinic,” Elvie added.

“I’m so grateful to you for hiring her after school,” Denise said, then rushed on with, “But that doesn’t change how I’ve behaved since she was born. It doesn’t erase years’ worth of being rotten. And every guy in town knows just how easy I was.”

Was being the operative word,” Nancy rushed to clarify.

“Still, I don’t think I’ll ever find a guy who can love me,” Denise finished, taking the Sriracha Siren out of Nancy’s hand and shoving it back in the display.

“You don’t know that,” Nancy persisted. “I ended up with Doc, even after a billion misunderstandings and false starts. Well,” she cocked her head to the side, “not a billion. But I found him, and I’m lucky.”

“Yeah,” Elvie added. “And I never expected to find a guy who made my heart skip a beat and my girly bits tingle, not after—”

She stopped, clamping her mouth shut. She’d just come way too close to blurting out the big secret she’d been sitting on since the rodeo last month. It wasn’t even a secret either, just something she hadn’t planned on telling anyone. How could she even begin to explain her excitement at the memory of those blue eyes and those shoulders, as broad as the Wyoming horizon, even if she’d only seen them once? Guys like that didn’t come around every day and—

She blinked as soon as she realized her friends were staring at her. “What?”

Nancy grinned and peeked at Denise. Denise smirked and crossed her arms. “You get the feeling there’s something she’s not telling us?”

“Uh-huh.” Nancy crossed her arms as well and stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Denise. “Spill it, sister.”

Elvie’s cheeks suddenly went hot. The only way she was going to get out of this with her dignity intact was to act like it was no big deal. “It’s nothing. I was just thinking about the one that got away.”

 

Drifter’s Darling is out NOW! At the moment, it’s exclusive to Amazon and for Kindle Unlimited, but in three short months, it will be available at iBooks, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo as well!

Writing Spicy and Sweet

Sep 20, 2016

sweet-spicyA lot of people who have read my Brides of Paradise Ranch series have been intrigued by the fact that I’ve been doing both a sweet and a spicy version of each book. People love the idea of being able to choose which heat-level they’d like to read, but I’m often asked “How do you do that? How do you write two versions?” 

The first and most important part of the answer to that question is that I start out knowing that I’m going to be writing two versions all the way in the conceptualization phase.  

But let me back up a little bit further to answer the question of why I started doing this in the first place.  

I generally write spicy. I like to write spicy. I like to read spicy. Not erotica, mind you, but sizzling. When I first started reading romance novels all those years ago, I read spicy pirate romance novels. That level of spice just seems natural to me. But as I started writing historical westerns (and I never intended to write historical westerns when I started out, it happened by accident—but that’s a whole other blog post), I came to see that a lot of readers preferred the sweet stuff. And I’ll confess, I looked at the success of my sweet historical western-writing friends and thought, “Well, I’m trying to make a living off of this, and I’ve got to pay the bills somehow.” 

So I decided to give sweet a try…without sacrificing the spice. Because anyone who knows me knows that the spicy side is a huge part of who I am. =D 

Back to how I do it… HisHeartbrokenBride_Libby

Like I said, I know going into a spicy/sweet novel that it’s going to have two versions. I thought about going back and rewriting some of my older books in sweet versions, but it didn’t take long to realize that it wouldn’t work. In so many of those books, major elements of the plot and the characters’ journeys center around what happens in the bedroom. It’s impossible to take that out without changing the focus of the plot entirely. 

So keeping that in mind, when I set out to write books with both sweet and spicy versions, I knew I had to include the spice in such a way that it wasn’t the pivot point of the plot. The major thrust of the action (no pun intended) had to focus around something that could still be told without following the characters into the bedroom. In other words, the tension of the plot needed to be something other than “will they or won’t they.” 

I think that plotting this way has actually made me a better writer. In the past, I’ve always considered external plots to be the weak point in my writing. Well, here I was writing stories that needed to depend on external plot rather than just the relationship between the hero and heroine. At the same time, that relationship has to play a major role in the story. After all, the spicy version wouldn’t work if the schmexy scenes felt tacked on or superfluous. 

That leaves me with a complex dilemma for each book. How do I write one version in which sensual scenes play a major part in character development without the entire plot hanging on them? And how can I remove those scenes and still maintain an intimacy between the characters while keeping the story sweet? 

HisTemptingBride_Miriam_2coversI think the answer lies in my process of writing. When I draft each of the Paradise Ranch books, I draft the spicy version. The first draft is spicy. Actually, the second and third drafts are too. Once I have everything just the way I want it, I send it off to my editor. And then I go back and start working on the sweet version while she works on the spicy one. 

The sweet version is all about subtracting and adding. I go through and take out everything non-sweet. Gone are the schmexy scenes, gone are any swear words or even references to alcohol. I have a kind of silly list of words that I do a search for when I’m writing that sweet version. But of course, most of the time if you take something out, you leave holes. That’s when I go back through and add many more Christian references and rewrite any sensual scenes to be emotionally powerful, fully-clothed, upright scenes. 

This is another area where preplanning is key. When I’m writing the schmexy scenes in the first draft, I always have a point where the action will veer off into the sweet scene in later drafts. I build that jumping off point into the draft to save myself the work of rewriting tons and tons of words later. I keep both versions in mind even as I’m spicing it up. 

Once the spicy draft comes back from my editor, I go through and make all the changes she suggests in both versions. After that, they go off to various proof-readers and beta-readers I have, depending on which draft they prefer. Once those come back, I make final changes and corrections, and voila! Two versions. 

I’ve had a lot of positive response from readers about the fact that two versions are available, even though they prefer one or the other. And I also get a lot of questions about whether I will be going back and writing sweet versions of my older books. The answer to that is no, it would be way too much work, and I’d rather focus on writing new books.  

HisBewilderingBride_Wendy_2coversThe second question I get is “Will you be doing sweet and spicy versions of new books/series?” That’s a much harder question to answer. Harder not because I have to think about my answer, but I’m afraid my answer will disappoint people. Because the answer is no. No, this series has taught me that I really do prefer writing spicy. It comes more naturally to me, and so I’ll be sticking with just the spicy in all new series. BUT, I’m going to continue to write both sweet and spicy versions of the Paradise Ranch series, and that has many, many, MANY more books to come! 

I want to add one final note before ending, though, based on a few private comments I’ve had from readers. I do not think sex is dirty. That’s why I will never refer to a sweet novel as “clean.” I take offense to that term. I don’t think sex is shocking or scandalous or evil, and especially not dirty. It’s a natural part of human relationships and intimacy. I don’t think it should be treated as an unmentionable topic, because I believe that that way lies dysfunction and fear. So all those 1-star reviews that say “This book has too much sex in it?” Those are like 6-star reviews to me! For those who like to leave those reviews, just know that those kinds of reviews sell more books than the best of the best 5-star reviews.

Check out all of the books in The Brides of Paradise Ranch series on my “Other Works by Merry Farmer” page!

Weekend Excerpt – Drifter’s Darling

Sep 16, 2016

It’s almost the weekend, folks, and you know what that means. It means it’s time to take a sneak peek at something up and coming! And I know you’re eager to get a little taste of the next Culpepper Cowboys book, Drifter’s Darling. So here you go!

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“Here you go, Raspberry Rush.” Denise Bonneville pulled a tube of lipstick from its display in the cosmetics aisle of Culpepper’s one and only convenience store and handed it to Elvie’s newly-minted sister-in-law, Nancy, Doc’s wife. “This one will match your complexion much better than the shade I saw you wearing the other day.”

Nancy took the lipstick with a dubious expression. “I’m not used to wearing make-up in the first place.” She rolled the tube in her fingers, reading the ingredients, of all things, on the back.

Denise snorted and brushed away Nancy’s comment. “Honey, I’ll help you out all you want.”

“You will?” Nancy’s eyebrows inched up.

“Sure I will. I’ll do your colors too. Oh! Then maybe we can go on a big shopping trip to Cheyenne or something!”

“You planning to do my colors too?” Elvie asked. Her smile reached all the way down to her gut. She hadn’t had a fun group of girl friends since high school.

“I’d love to.” Denise brightened. “Although you’ll be easy to beautify. You’re so pretty already.”

Elvie blushed. The last thing she ever felt was pretty. Competent, yes. Powerful, occasionally. But pretty just wasn’t something she’d ever cared about.

“Thanks,” she managed at last. “I credit whatever prettiness I have to the O’Donnell genes.”

“You’ve sure got a lot of them,” Denise grinned, that look coming into her eyes that all women wore when talking about her brothers. “I had such a crush on Doc all these years. Not that I do now,” she rushed to add for Nancy’s sake, holding up her hands to prove her innocence. “He’s all yours now, and I don’t believe in chasing other women’s men.” She paused. “At least, not anymore.”

Denise’s lighthearted expression drooped. Elvie reached out to squeeze her arm. “We know you don’t.”

“Yeah, and you’re right about the O’Donnell genes.” Nancy deftly steered away from the painful subject. “I still can’t believe I managed to bag such a hot guy.”

“They’re all hot, Doc, Sly, and Arch.” Denise perked up a little, then burst into a full, naughty grin. “I don’t know how you ever manage to leave the bedroom.”

“Let me tell you,” Nancy drawled, arching on eyebrow. “There are days when we don’t.”

“Eew, eew!” Elvie clapped her hands to her ears, laughing. “That’s my brother you’re talking about.”

“Yes it is,” Nancy teased her, licking her lips. She held up her tube of lipstick. “And pretty soon, he’s going to have Raspberry Rush marks all over his body, including his—”

“No!” Elvie laughed even louder. “Who do you think you are, Chastity Culpepper?”

The three of them giggled like a pack of teenagers talking about the guys on the football team. It was the kind of thing that helped Elvie’s soul breathe. The few friends she’d made in Denver didn’t understand why she wanted to leave the vibrant city for Nowheresville, as they called it, but this was it. There was just something about the friendships a girl could make in a small town. These were the ladies she would call in the middle of the night if her crying baby was running a fever.

Not that she had a baby.

Not that she was likely to anytime soon.

“So what shade would you recommend for me?” She turned back to the shelf of cosmetics. “Ooh! I like this one. Cinnamon Sunset.”

She reached for the tube, but Denise pulled it out of her hands. “Not with your coloring. This one is too warm. You need a cooler shade.” She put the Cinnamon Sunset back and reached for a dark rose tube. “This one. Dusty Rose Dreams.”

“Ooh!” Elvie took the tube, and turned to the tiny mirror built into the display, holding the lipstick up to her face. “I like it. Now all I need is someone to make kissy marks all over.”

The other two laughed.

Only two weeks to wait until Drifter’s Darling is out!

Release Day! – His Forbidden Bride/Honoria:The Forbidden Bride

Sep 02, 2016

Release Day is here at last for His Forbidden Bride (spicy version)/Honoria: The Forbidden Bride (sweet version)! And I know a lot of you have been looking forward to Honoria and Solomon’s story for a long, long time. Well, here it is! So who am I to stand in your way? Get started reading Chapter One right now….

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Haskell, Wyoming – 1876

 

Honoria Bonneville was about to go mad. The clock on the mantel of Dr. Abernathy’s office ticked with such deep foreboding that it pulled every nerve in her body taut. She wrung her white handkerchief in her hands as she sat hunched in a spindly chair on the other side of the waiting room from the clock. Her lungs burned, but she fought the urge to cough—fought it and fought it and fought it until she couldn’t hold out anymore.

She burst into a spell of coughing that wracked her from head to toe and made the pale, middle-aged woman sitting across from her start. That woman quickly fell into coughing too, as if Honoria’s outburst were contagious. A third patient—an older man—frowned and hugged himself tightly, as if summoning the willpower to not be made sick by the women. Honoria squeezed her eyes shut, praying for her lungs to be still.

Heaven knew she had enough practice holding her breath and keeping the things that were inside of her from coming out. She’d been biting her tongue and swallowing all of the things she had wanted to say for the past twenty-five years of incessant bullying by her sisters, Vivian and Melinda. She’d even endured snide comments and a turned-up nose from her younger sister, Bebe.

Once upon a time, she’d tried to speak out, to fight back against the unfairness that was heaped on her. It had been easier when she was a small girl and her mother was still alive. Ariana Bonneville had been the one light of hope in young Honoria’s life. She had been the single stabilizing influence in Rex Bonneville’s life—though he’d never appreciated her for it. She’d been the center of Honoria’s world, and when she’d died in childbirth—along with Rex Bonneville’s only son—when Honoria was seven, the light had gone out of her world. And the sense had gone out of the Bonneville family.

Grief that had never healed spilled through Honoria, and she dissolved into another round of wracking coughs that brought tears to her eyes. It was the coughing that made her cry, she insisted to herself, not grief, not pity for her lot in life. As her mother lay dying, her final words to Honoria had been, “Always remember who you are, Honoria. Your honor is your shining light. Hold your head up high, face your trials bravely, and be honest in all things.” There had been words of love and sorrow too, but in every day that passed since then, Honoria had obeyed her mother, behaved with quiet honor, and born the brutality of her sisters and the neglect of her father with as much courage and strength as she could muster…for Mother’s sake.

Now that strength was failing her. She coughed again, in unison with the other woman waiting to see Dr. Abernathy. She’d been strong as long as she could, but for months now Honoria had felt the unmistakable sensation of the Universe holding its breath. Something was about to change.

The door to Dr. Abernathy’s examination room swung open, and Dr. Abernathy himself popped his head into the waiting room. He held a small stack of files that he looked at several times between staring at Honoria, the old man, and the other woman. He shuffled through the papers in the file, cleared his throat, then focused on Honoria.

“With a cough like that, I’d better see you first.”

An unexpected tremor of fear passed through Honoria as she stood and slipped across the waiting room to the examination room. Dr. Abernathy stood back so she could go before him. Once she was inside, hovering anxiously beside a short table, Dr. Abernathy shut the door.

“Let’s see now.” Dr. Abernathy shuffled through the files, mumbling to himself. He set one down on the table, then scowled as he thumbed through the other two. “What an utter nuisance.”

“I’m sorry?” Honoria asked in a small voice.

Dr. Abernathy made a disapproving noise. “Why does Dr. Meyers keep insisting on seeing patients when he is constantly being called out to that blasted Indian reservation?”

Honoria blinked, unsure if she was supposed to answer the question. “I saw Dr. Meyers about my cough this morning.” She opted to explain.

“Yes, and I’m sure your father will have something to say about that,” Dr. Abernathy grumbled. “I’ve been your family doctor for years.”

There was no point in explaining that that was the exact reason she’d seen someone else about her concerns. “Dr. Meyers had just finished examining me—listening to my lungs, testing my sputum with some chemicals he has—when the army officer came to take him to the Cheyenne camp. I…I understand it was an emergency.”

Dr. Abernathy continued to mutter, “Damned inconvenient, if you ask me. Causing me extra work. Those savages don’t deserve it.”

A sudden snap of dislike caught Honoria off-guard, sending her into another coughing fit.

At last, Dr. Abernathy set one of the two files he held aside and his expression lightened. “Ah! Here we are. Just as I suspected.” His countenance turned grave. He stared at her over the top of his glasses. Honoria began to shake, too afraid to ask what he suspected. She didn’t have to ask. “It’s obvious, really,” he went on. “Consumption.”

Honoria’s breath caught in her throat, and the room went dark for a moment. Her legs turned to jelly, and if she hadn’t reached out to grab the examination table, she was certain she would have fallen over. She’d known it. In her heart, she’d known all along. And she knew what consumption was.

It was a death sentence.

“Looks like it’s fairly advanced, going by Dr. Meyers’s notes,” Dr. Abernathy went on, as if describing how a garden wall was built. “The coughing will continue, as will instances of coughing up blood. Yes, yes.” He scanned the rest of the file. “I wouldn’t plan on lasting more than six months to a year.”

“That’s it?” Honoria squeaked, clutching her handkerchief to her chest.

Dr. Abernathy shrugged. “Could be less, could be more.” He cleared his throat and closed the file, tossing it on the table with the others. “If I were you, young woman, I would get my affairs in order.”

The tears that had stung Honoria’s eyes earlier burned hotter. That was it? Twenty-five years and her life was over? She shook her head, her shoulders sinking. Twenty-five years of life and what did she have to show for it? A battered spirit and an empty heart.

What a waste. What a terrible, terrible waste.

Dr. Abernathy cleared his throat. “I have other patients to see. More than usual, thanks to Dr. Meyers.”

Honoria blinked up at him through her shock and grief. That was all he had to say? Censure for Dr. Meyers? After giving her a death sentence? The urge to run filled her.

“Thank you for your time, sir.” She managed to push out the words with a hoarse breath.

Dr. Abernathy grunted, then pivoted to hold the door open for her. Clutching her handkerchief to her chest, Honoria hurried out the door. She tried to hold her head high—like she always did—as she made her way through the waiting room, but as soon as she was out in the hot, July sun of Haskell, she burst into bitter, wrenching tears.

 

Oh no! That doesn’t sound good at all! But is Honoria really dying? Find out by reading either His Forbidden Bride (spicy version) or Honoria: The Forbidden Bride (sweet version) now!

His Forbidden Bride is available at AmazoniBooksBarnes & Noble, and will be available for Kobo soon.

Honoria: The Forbidden Bride is available exclusively at Amazon and for Kindle Unlimited.

 

 

Weekend Excerpt – His Forbidden Bride/Honoria: The Forbidden Bride

Aug 26, 2016

I know how much you guys have been looking forward to Honoria & Solomon’s story, His Forbidden Bride (spicy)/Honoria: The Forbidden Bride (sweet). Well, it’s almost here! It’ll be out in one week! So why not read a little bit of it today? Think it will satisfy you or make you more excited? *wiggles eyebrows*

HisForbiddenBride_Honoria

She made it almost all the way to the intersection with Elizabeth Street before hearing Solomon’s concerned call of, “Honoria, stop!”

She could only managed a few more, tripping steps before lurching to a halt. Rough coughing stopped her. She shouldn’t be running, as sick as she was. She held her handkerchief to her mouth, helpless to do anything but wait until Solomon caught up with her.

“Honoria, my god.” He skipped straight past politeness and gripped her arms as he reached her.

Honoria’s coughing subsided, and she let her hand fall from her mouth. “I…” She couldn’t meet her eyes, could only stare down at the contrast between her white handkerchief and the dark brown skin of his hands. “I…” She couldn’t. She couldn’t burden him.

Only, before she could summon up the strength to break free from his supporting hands, Solomon said, “Elspeth told me what you said to her.”

Honoria snapped her eyes up to meet his, full of fear. Would he reject her now? The one person she admired above all else?

No, there was so much tenderness, so much regret in his eyes that all she could do was break down into sobs and nod.

“No,” he whispered.

And right there, in broad daylight, directly across from the hotel, near one of the busiest intersections in Haskell, Solomon Templesmith pulled her into a tight embrace, resting her head against his shoulder. No one, not even her own father, would ever show her so much sympathy. Solomon was little more than a stranger, forbidden in so many ways, but the comfort he was offering turned her inside out and made her feel as though she was floating in the midst of her misery. She wept freely against his shoulder, leaning heavily into the firm muscles of his chest, closing her arms around his back. She’d dreamed of this moment with him for years, only to have it come at the end.

They might have stood there for hours or it might have only been seconds when Solomon said, “Tell me all about it.”

Sense returned to her slowly. She gulped a few breaths, working to have the power to stand on her own. As soon as she could, she pushed back, wiping away her tears and straightening her back. It still took several deep, deliberate breaths before she could raise her gaze to meet his.

“Dr. Abernathy says I have consumption,” she admitted, her voice shaking like tall grass in a storm. “He says I have months left.”

Solomon’s expression crumpled into extreme sympathy. “Oh, Honoria, I’m so sorry.”

He could have left her right there, but instead he took her hand and led her over to the side of the road, to a bench that sat out in front of Charlie and Olivia Garrett’s house. He helped her to sit, then sat beside her. Out of the corner of her eyes, Honoria spotted several people looking on curiously, including Mr. Gunn on the hotel’s porch. She didn’t mind his observation, but she wished everyone else would disappear. She wished everyone in the world but her and Solomon would disappear.

“What precisely did Dr. Abernathy say?” Solomon asked in a solid, businesslike voice.

Honoria wrung her handkerchief, used it to dabbed her eyes, and gathered her thoughts. Solomon was sitting too close to her, but at that moment she truly didn’t care.

“I…I’ve had this cough for quite some time,” she began in a weak and weary voice. “Bonnie—you know, Bonnie Horner, who’s walking out with my father—has been urging me to see a doctor.”

“Bonnie is a wise woman.” Solomon nodded.

Honoria managed a small smile for praise of the woman who—in spite of having her father for a beau—was vilified more often than not in the Bonneville house.

Her smile faded fast. “I went to see Dr. Meyers first thing this morning. He examined me. He even ran a test with chemicals that he explained were new and helped diagnose disease.” Solomon made an impressed sound. “But he was called away by an army officer. Dr. Abernathy takes over his cases when Dr. Meyers is away, so I left and went about my business until this afternoon.” She sniffled as recent, bad memories assailed her. “I went to Dr. Abernathy for the results just now, and he told me.” She squeezed her eye shut, and more tears streamed down her face.

“Could Dr. Abernathy have been wrong?” Solomon asked.

Honoria shook her head. He had Dr. Meyers’s file. I saw Dr. Meyers writing in that file while he was examining me.”

Solomon’s shoulder sagged. “I’m so sorry.” He rubbed Honoria’s back, sliding his arm around her and letting her rest her head on his shoulder from the side.

“My life has been such a waste,” she blurted before she could stop herself. Her tears continued to spill.

“Don’t say that.” Solomon’s voice was so tender that it only made her weep harder.

“But it’s true. I’ve let myself be pushed around and bullied by my sisters since Mama died. I’ve lived a half-life. And there were so many things I wanted to do.”

“What did you want to do?” He brushed a loose strand of hair away from her forehead.

Honoria sighed, closing her eyes. “I wanted to make something of myself. I wanted to do something with my skills, help people. I…I wanted to fall in love, marry, and have children.” Her voice faded to a wisp as she mourned all of the children she’d never have now.

 

Oooh! Excited for more! You only have to wait one week! His Forbidden Bride/Honoria: The Forbidden Bride comes out next Friday, September 2nd!