Excerpt Wednesday – More Precious Than Gold

Apr 29, 2015

It’s Wednesday, so of course I have a little snippet of my upcoming work, More Precious Than Gold, my first foray into Inspirational Romance, for you! Come see how Louisa and her friends are handling their lives and loves as they blossom into adulthood in a difficult time….

MorePreciousThanGold_3D

“You’re right.” Louisa nodded and sidestepped around the group to the boulder where she’d parked her bicycle. She took three steps, then stopped dead. She’d thought things couldn’t get any worse, but the back tire of her beloved bicycle had gone completely flat. “No!”

The others turned at her exclamation and saw what she saw. Andrew headed straight for the wounded bicycle, Louisa and Jamie following. When he reached it, Andrew squatted and checked the tire. He turned the wheel only a few inches before revealing a shard of glass wedged in the rubber.

“We should have put up signs warning people about the broken glass.” Andrew shook his head as he stood. “I’ll get Rowan to post something.”

“What are you going to do, Louisa?” Gayle asked as she stepped close, Wren flanking her other side.

Louisa had no idea how much bicycle tires cost, but it was certainly more than she could afford. Her heart sank as she realized everything this meant. Wren and Gayle would ride around all summer without her, and she would be trapped at home. The only relief she had from her work had been snatched away from her. She wanted to cry right there, even if Andrew and Jamie were watching. Worse still, Andrew noticed her distress right away and moved closer to her.

“That’s easy to fix.” Jamie’s off-hand comment cut through the dread of crying so close to Andrew. Jamie bent closer to study the tire. “I’ve got a repair kit at home. I can patch that in no time.” He straightened and glanced briefly to Wren—so briefly Louisa wondered if anyone noticed—before looking to her. “Would you mind if I took it home and fixed it?”

“Mind?” Louisa sputtered. She looked to Andrew. He smiled at Jamie as though confirming he had chosen his new friend wisely.

“Well,” Jamie shrugged, “it would be good practice for me to work on this. It’s the kind of thing I should know how to do at a moment’s notice in case I need to … repair something.”

“I … well, if you think you can fix it.” She wanted to ask if he expected payment. She wanted to ask but she knew she couldn’t. She knew he wouldn’t. “Thank you, Jamie. That’s very kind of you.”

“That is very kind of you,” Gayle echoed in a dreamy voice, smile growing as if she were in on whatever the men had planned.

“Yes.” Wren crossed her arms, watching Jamie with a confused frown. “Very kind. We should get going.” She started away from the group to retrieve her own bicycle.

“How is Louisa going to get back?” Gayle dashed after her.

“I’ll give her a ride,” Andrew offered, glancing from his sister to Louisa. “If that’s all right with you.”

For some reason it was.

“I really ought to go home, though,” Louisa sighed.

“But you barely got here,” Wren protested. “I thought we could go into town this afternoon and look at the new hats that just came in at McGivney’s.”

All the more reason for her to go home.

“Without a bicycle, I’d just slow you down.”

“No you wouldn’t.”

“Besides, I have to get to work on the pillowcases I’m embroidering for the Fourth of July booth.”

Wren opened her mouth to reply, but one quick glance from Andrew stopped her. She let out a breath and stepped forward to hug Louisa.

“Well, all right. I’ll let you go this time. But I’m beginning to think you work too hard, Miss Louisa White.”

When she stepped back Gayle quickly took her place and squeezed Louisa tightly. Louisa was red with embarrassment by the time her friends finally let her go.

“I’m sorry to be such trouble,” she apologized to Andrew as they walked away from the construction site to a spot where several bicycles were parked.

“It’s no trouble at all.” He shrugged, hair tousled in the sea breeze. “I have a meeting in town this afternoon that I have to clean up for anyhow.”

Louisa followed half a step behind him, walking parallel to her friends as they made for their own bikes.

“Have you ever ridden on handlebars before?” Andrew asked.

Louisa froze in her tracks, a grin spreading across her flushed face. “No.”

“It’s the easiest thing in the world. All you have to do is balance. I’ve got the hard job.”

He picked his bicycle out of the mass and rolled it around to where she had stopped.

“Why, because I’m a lumpy load?”

He laughed. “You look like you weigh as much as a feather.”

He was being generous. Or blind. She sent him a sideways look as she took hold of the handlebar of his bike and tried to figure out how to climb on.

“Catch me if I fall?”

“Always,” he answered without pause. The sound of his voice filled her with confidence and she turned and hoisted herself to sit on the handlebars while he held the bicycle still.

“Watch your skirt,” he cautioned her, readying to push off. “Make sure it doesn’t get caught in the wheel. You can put your feet up on the bumper covering the wheel if you need to.”

Louisa waved quickly to her friends as she tried to figure out how to hold onto the handlebar and her skirt and her hat all at the same time. Wren and Gayle waved back and proceeded to squeal along with her when Andrew stepped on the pedals and the bicycle shot forward.

“Hold on,” he laughed as he picked up speed. “We’re going for a ride.”

 

More Precious Than Gold is coming May 6th. Stay tuned!

And if you’d like to learn more about Swedenborg and the New Church, please visit the Swedenborg Foundation! They’re packed full of great info.

Excerpt Wednesday – More Precious Than Gold – First Look

Apr 22, 2015

You know I love Wednesdays! Today I’m bringing you an excerpt from a new project that is very close to my heart. I’ve started writing an Inspirational Historical Romance series based on the actual history of the church I was raised in. This first book, More Precious Than Gold, begins the trilogy with the story of Louisa White and Andrew McBride. They’ve been friends since childhood, but as they blossom into adults, they are each startled to find their feelings changing. But how can they navigate these new, complicated feelings when the world and the church they have known their whole life is in such trouble? Here’s a peek….

MorePreciousThanGold_3D

Louisa left the June Nineteenth picnic with hope in her heart, buoyed by the love of her friends and the society. The next morning she awoke to a pile of work that had doubled after being ignored for a day. She thought of her friends, thought of all of the blessings in her life, and tried not to complain. Instead she sat in the back room of their little house, working diligently and cheering herself with the thought that she was serving a very important for her family.

At least, she tried to. Within minutes, her hopes fell and her heart was heavy. She wasn’t sure which struck harder, the hours of sewing that left her eyes stinging and her head pounding or the endless dialog of frustration that swirled through her head.

“I didn’t study hard and excel in school all those years only to end up working in a shop or a factory, harried and lonely,” her thoughts grumbled. “My friends are still enjoying their last taste of childhood while I have to work to have a roof over my head and food on my table. I don’t even care about nice things, like Gayle, or big families, like Wren. I just want to be normal. Andrew would understand.”

The last thought took Louisa by surprise. She paused halfway through embroidering the hem of a christening gown.

Why should Andrew McBride come straight to her thoughts?

Then again, she considered as she returned to sewing, Andrew knew what it was like to have a job, to work hard for a living. Still, his family was wealthy. Hers was not.

By the time Saturday rolled around, Louisa was bursting with desperation to get out of the house and into the balmy summer sunlight. She hadn’t seen Wren or Gayle all week. As she mounted her bicycle and pedaled off along the main road leading up the coast to Cliff House, she wanted to spread her arms and embrace the morning. Instead she settled for gripping the handlebar of her bicycle with a fondness that made her laugh and roll her eyes at herself.

Her bright red bicycle was far and away her favorite possession. Like everything else of any worth that she owned, it had been a gift from the McBrides. They had presented it to her, along with bicycles for Wren and Gayle, when they finished grammar school years ago. The fact that Gayle had been given the same gift was the only thing that had stopped Louisa from refusing such an elaborate present, and now both of her friends had newer, fancier bicycles. But Louisa still loved her old, clunky, red one.

She pedaled up the long, sloping drive to Cliff House, ringing the bell on her handlebars and waving at Wren’s youngest brothers and sisters. They played with their friends and the family dog where the lawn met the beach. The McBrides were a large family, eight children in all, and Louisa was never sure if she felt comfortable with them or just overwhelmed. At home there had only been Father, Mother, Henry and her. Now it was just the three of them, and Henry was gone most of the time.

She found herself praying for a large family of her own one day, lots of children to love and care for, as she skidded to a stop at the top of the drive beside the back door. As quickly as the thought came into her mind she brushed it aside. Marriage was the last thing she should be thinking about. Someday, yes, but at the moment it was the least of her problems.

“Hello!” she called out as she leaned her bicycle against the side of the house and brushed her skirts straight.

Gayle’s bicycle also rested against the house, so Louisa walked through the kitchen door as if she too were a McBride. Sure enough, inside the warm, fragrant kitchen, Gayle and Wren were hard at work. Gayle wore yet another new dress, light pink with the puffy sleeves that were becoming so popular. One sleeve already had a smudge on it. Wren was dressed in far more practical clothing, her long strawberry-blonde hair hanging in a braid down her back.

“I knew I’d find you in here.” Louisa smiled as she greeted them. She could have laughed out loud with joy at seeing her friends. It was ridiculous that just a few days apart could make her miss them so much. “What’s all this?”

“Provisions,” Gayle answered with a mischievous tweak of her dark eyebrows.

The kitchen table was spread with cookies and miniature cakes and the raspberry tarts that Wren was famous for. Wren and Gayle were busy packing them into baskets and tins and even a large napkin or two as they ran out of containers. Louisa closed her eyes and breathed in the warm, sweet smells of baking.

“I wish I’d gotten here sooner,” she sighed, mouth watering.

“Me too!” Gayle said with a giggle.

“Where were you?” Wren asked without looking up from her task.

“I—”

“We’re going to take refreshments to the men working at the lighthouse,” Gayle interrupted, sparing Louisa the embarrassment of yet another excuse.

Wren sent a wary glance in Gayle’s direction before adding, “Mama thought it would be a good idea to take the workers a snack. They’ve been out there since sunrise.”

“We’ve got all this and some jugs of lemonade,” Gayle added, nodding to the counter by the sink. Two large brown jugs with corks stood waiting for attention. “Of course we don’t really have room for glasses,” Gayle shrugged, “but my guess is they’ll be so thirsty they won’t mind drinking straight from the jug.”

“You’ve come just in time,” Wren continued with her businesslike voice, wiping her hands on her apron before untying it and pulling it off over her head. “We’ll put the lemonade in the basket on one of our bicycles and split the goodies between the other two.”

Louisa jumped into action as soon as the suggestion was made. Action made everything feel better. “I’ll take the jugs,” she said, crossing to the counter to retrieve them.

The girls had long since dropped the habit of being polite with each other and asking for help. It was understood that they would all help each other without being asked whenever help was needed. Gayle set about hanging baskets of treats from her arm while Wren hung her apron on a peg beside the back door and returned to gather an armful of treats. With a grin, Louisa found herself considering that if Wren ever found herself in the same predicament that Louisa was in now, she would probably open a bakery and become wealthy and famous all over again. Money stuck to some people like burrs on a cat.

“You’ve made an awful lot,” Louisa said as they fixed their hats on their heads and carried their loads out to their bicycles. “Do we really need this much?”

“Everyone is over there, everyone.” Gayle smiled, eyes glittering with mirth. “Even C.J. Wick.”

It was all Louisa could do not to roll her eyes. She didn’t know what she would do if her friend tried to play matchmaker.

 

More Precious Than Gold is coming the first week of May. I’m thinking the 6th right now. Stay tuned!

And if you’d like to learn more about Swedenborg and the New Church, please visit the Swedenborg Foundation! They’re packed full of great info.

Excerpt Wednesday – Trail of Destiny – An Unlikely Friend

Apr 15, 2015

Well, I was a little out of it and didn’t post an excerpt last Wednesday, but Trail of Destiny is almost here! So let’s take a look at one of the best, and perhaps most unlikely, friendships of the story…..

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When they were out of earshot of the workers, Howard said, “I saw the way you were looking at that young man just now.”

“I wasn’t—” With a sigh, Alice decided that there was no point in denying it. “He’s a handsome man with a fine physique.”

Howard chuckled. “It’s been ages since a woman has been able to say that about me. You should have seen me when Elizabeth and I first met, though. I was just as much of a young, strapping lad as your Jarvis.”

“He’s not my Jarvis,” Alice admitted.

“No? You could have fooled me?”

Howard was in such good spirits, his smile so wide, that Alice couldn’t help but smile along with him.

“We only met a very short time ago, at Ft. Bridger,” she explained. “I don’t think that’s enough time for anyone to claim ownership of someone else, body or soul.”

“So you’d think,” Howard said, steering the wagon around the edge of his herd of cattle. “The funny thing about love is that it doesn’t listen to reason.”

“Who said anything about love?” Alice lowered her voice and worried at a spot on her skirt.

“Hmm.” Evidently, Howard didn’t agree with her.

“I’ve loved once,” she went on. “It was beautiful and wonderful. This doesn’t feel like that.”

“Of course not,” Howard snorted. “Love is like clouds. They’re never the same and they change constantly.”

“Yes, but clouds don’t hurt when they die,” she replied before she could think better of it. “I’m sorry,” she apologized. “I shouldn’t bring up these sorts of things.” And yet, Howard was as easy and comforting to talk to as her father.

“Of course you should, my dear,” he said with a father’s compassion. “What are old folks like us good for if not giving advice to the young and brash?”

They exchanged a warm smile. Alice relaxed against her seat.

“Clouds do hurt from time to time,” Howard went on. “Ever heard of lightning?”

“Yes, of course.”

“Well, it comes from the clouds. But that doesn’t mean you should stay indoors day and night, denying yourself the pleasures of a sunny day for fear that the clouds will roll in.” He paused, shifted in his seat, then said, “I think I mixed my metaphors there, but I hope the point made it across in one piece.”

“Oh, it did,” Alice assured him. “I’m just not sure it’s worth the risk to go out in the rain.”

Howard chuckled at her attempt to stick with his metaphors. Then he sighed.

“I love my dear Elizabeth more than the sun and moon and stars combined,” he confessed in a subdued voice. “My Lucy too. Not a day goes by when I don’t miss them terribly. But Elizabeth doesn’t like the frontier, and I’m not willing to live cooped up in a city back East. It doesn’t mean I don’t wrack my brains on a daily basis to think of ways to win her back.”

“Do you write to her?”

He didn’t answer right away. In fact, he huffed and sat straighter. “I used to. She was slow to reply.”

Alice arched an eyebrow. “So you’re advising me to love again while refusing to listen to the voice of love in your own heart?”

She meant to be teasing, but Howard sagged. “That’s none of your business,” he blustered, but then added. “I should write, shouldn’t I?”

“I think you should.”

His smile returned and he glanced to her as he drove the wagon on. “I’ll tell you what. I’ll write to Elizabeth if you let yourself consider the idea of a certain handsome militiaman. How does that sound?”

“It sounds like a trick,” Alice said. Even so, her heart longed to accept the challenge. Once again, the image of Jarvis shirtless and the temptation of falling into his arms swept through her.

“Trick or not, it will bring both of us happiness,” Howard said. “At least, we’ll each be happy for each other.”

Alice smiled. “I suppose that’s something.”

She wasn’t willing to make any promises. She still couldn’t shake the idea that to open herself to Jarvis meant turning her back on Harry. But at least when it came to Howard, she’d found a friend.

 

Guess what? You can pre-order Trail of Destiny already! It’s on Amazon here or for your Nook reader here or on iBooks here.

Excerpt…Um, Thursday? – Trail Blaze

Apr 02, 2015

Okay, okay, I had this grand plan to release this lovely little surprise novella that I’ve been sitting on for April Fool’s Day, and to post a bit of the first chapter to tease you. But Amazon had other plans (a really high volume of books submitted on the 31st, they tell me), so it’s a day late. Yep. But don’t despair! In honor of Thursday, here’s your first look at my gift to you, Trail Blaze:

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Along the Oregon Trail, 1858

It didn’t matter how many times her fellow passengers marveled over the relative speed and convenience of stagecoach travel, Darcy Howsam was done with it. For weeks she’d been rattling on over the prairie, racing toward the frontier and the future that she had pinned all of her hopes on. Stagecoach was the fastest way to travel—why, an intrepid adventurer could make it from St. Louis to San Francisco by stagecoach in a month—but it was far from the most comfortable.

“No need to fidget, dearie,” the older woman squashed against Darcy, Mrs. Folsom, told her with a long-suffering smile. “We’re almost there.”

“Are we?”

Darcy heaved a sigh and looked around the woman to see out the stagecoach window. The prairie had barely changed for the past two weeks. Everything around them was flat grassland, dotted by the occasional military outpost or new farm. The West was the land of opportunity. Anyone who wanted to pull up their roots and make a name and a life for themselves in the vast, fertile land had done exactly what Darcy herself was doing for more than a decade now. West was the direction of hope, the direction of promise.

Darcy pressed the letter she’d been carrying every step of her journey tighter between her sweating hands. West was her last hope. Mr. Conrad Huber was her last hope.

“If you don’t stop wringing that poor letter, you’re bound to destroy it,” Mrs. Folsom sighed. “You’ve been fiddling with it since we left St. Louis.” The older woman’s voice betrayed just how irksome she found Darcy’s fiddling.

“Sorry,” Darcy said, pressing the letter flat to her lap.

It was a challenge to resist reading the letter over and over. It contained the words that had changed her life. Ever since her parents and siblings had died in an epidemic, leaving her completely on her own, Darcy’s fortunes had sunk. She’d done her best to seek employment in a shop at home in Maryland, and when that failed, as a servant in a grand house. But something always seemed to go wrong. The shop-owner had gone out of business, and the lady of the house where she had become a maid didn’t like the way her husband looked at Darcy. Darcy didn’t like it either.

It was the leering looks of Mr. Tavener that had instilled in her the need to flee and given her an idea of how she could go. For more than a decade, men had been going west to seek their fortunes. Men. Not women. Wives were in demand on the furthest edges of the frontier. Darcy had sought out newspaper advertisements of men seeking wives to join them in places like California, the Oregon Territory, or the Nebraska Territory. She’d answered an advertisement from Mr. Huber, who said he needed a woman who could cook and clean for him in California. He’d replied to her inquiry, telling her to come and sending her the money for passage as far as Ft. Laramie.

That letter and the money it had contained was the different between a life of disgrace and moral danger for Darcy and the chance to build something new. Of course she would hold and read and press it to her heart as frequently as she could.

“Ft. Laramie,” the stagecoach driver called from his perch on the driver’s seat. “Ft. Laramie ahead.”

His voice was muffled through the stagecoach walls, but the weary travelers hummed and sighed with relief nonetheless.

“Saints be praised,” Mrs. Folsom groaned.

Darcy felt every bit of the woman’s impatience and thankfulness that the journey was finally over—although some of their fellow travelers would, no doubt, continue on by stagecoach. Not Darcy. She leaned over Mrs. Folsom as politely as she could to glance out the window. All she could see was prairie and more prairie. She wouldn’t be able to see straight forward or glance more than a tight patch of land out the window until the coach had stopped and she could get out.

“How do you expect to find your gentleman at a busy fort?” Mrs. Folsom asked.

Her uncomfortable grimace was enough to scold Darcy into sitting back in her seat, mashed against the man on the other side who had ignored her all week.

“He says here in his letter that he’ll be wearing a blue bandana around his neck,” Darcy told her.

“Oh?” Mrs. Folsom sniffed and stretched her back, then glanced out the window. She could likely see more than Darcy, but not much. “There appear to be quite a few wagons around the fort and even more people,” she reported. “Plenty of blue.”

“I’m sure Mr. Huber will be looking for me too,” Darcy said, as much to ease her own nerves as anything.

What if she couldn’t find him? What if he had changed his mind and didn’t come to meet her after all? What could a woman on her own with no money do in an empty land like this? She suspected she knew the answer, but even though the West was packed with saloons and saloon girls, she could never, ever see herself going down that desperate path. No, it was a respectable marriage or nothing.

“Ft. Laramie,” the stagecoach driver repeated his call as the coach slowed and gradually came to a stop. “Ft. Laramie. End of the line for some of you. For the rest, we’ll be heading out again in one hour.”

The driver’s voice moved from the front of the stagecoach to the side as he spoke. He hopped down from his seat and came around to the door. As one of Darcy’s fellow travelers threw the door open and began the exodus into the fresh air and sunshine, the coach rocked and pitched on its springs. Darcy tried to stand and make her way out, but a man who had been sitting behind her pushed her over, sending her sprawling against the bench in front of her. She dropped Mr. Huber’s letter and had to fish for it, being careful not to have her hand stepped on by exiting travelers.

By the time she snatched the letter and muscled herself to stand, the carriage had emptied. She scrambled out the door, landing with unsteady legs on a patch of packed dirt. Dust swirled around the hem of her skirt. One of the stagecoach hands knocked into her from the side as he received baggage being handed down to him from the coach’s roof. He didn’t bother to apologize. He might not even have seen her, small as she was.

Brushing away the insult, Darcy walked wide of the stagecoach, eager to get her first view of Ft. Laramie. It was similar to the other military outposts they’d passed through on the journey. There were forts every day’s ride or so. The military kept a strong presence along all routes west to discourage raids and attacks by Indians and bandits. They’d made it this far without being molested, for which Darcy was grateful. The difference between Ft. Laramie and many of the other forts was the mass of covered wagons that clustered around the fort’s east side. Darcy hadn’t seen so many wagons together since the stop they’d made at Independence, Missouri. Along with the sea of canvas and oxen were more people than she had seen in a week.

Too many people. She bit her lip and raised a hand to shield her eyes as she scanned them all, looking for a hint of a blue bandana.

“Miss. Miss, is this yours?”

The stagecoach hand finally noticed her. He thrust a worn old bag out to Darcy. It looked pathetic against the number of fancy bags and small trunks that the stagecoach also held. It was as thin and poor as her.

“Yes, thank you,” she told the gruff man with a smile.

He returned that smile with a half-hearted one as Darcy took her bag, then he ignored her and went back to work.

Darcy took a few more steps away from the stagecoach, clutching her bag in one hand and her letter in the other. A few people out of the crowd of wagons stared at the stagecoach, but none of them wore a blue bandana. Worry gnawed at Darcy’s gut. She couldn’t be abandoned. It simply wasn’t acceptable. Mr. Huber had to be—

A flash of blue caught her eye and she let out a breath of relief. A young man stood to the side of a wagon nearby, watching her with a smile. He was handsome too, with sandy-blond hair and a tanned face. He looked to be the kind of man who worked hard and had the physique to prove it. Best of all, he wore a blue shirt. That was even better than a bandana. Why, Darcy couldn’t have missed this man if she had arrived at night after being blinded by a wild animal attack. At last. At last she could rest easy, knowing that everything would be all right.

“Hey you,” a man shouted at the stagecoach driver behind her. “You were supposed to bring me a woman. A Darcy Howsam woman. Where the hell is she?”

Darcy’s throat constricted and her smile wilted on her lips. She pivoted toward the stagecoach and the voice. There, standing with his fists on his hips and a scowl as dark as midnight on his face, stood a paunchy, unshaven man who looked well over forty. He wore a bright blue bandana around his neck. Darcy’s heart sank to her toes.

“Right there,” the stagecoach driver said, pointing to Darcy with only a quick sideways glance.

The paunchy man turned to her and narrowed his eyes. A second, taller man—unkempt and unshaven—stood beside him. He leaned over and whispered something to the man with the blue bandana. The man with the bandana snorted and spit. He muttered a curse, then stomped toward Darcy. His eyes stayed narrowed as he stopped in front of her, raking her up and down with a gaze as though assessing a horse he wanted to buy.

“You Darcy Howsam?” he asked.

“I am.” Darcy’s voice cracked. She swallowed, then asked, “Are you Mr. Conrad Huber?”

“Yep,” he said.

The last bit of Darcy’s hope crumbled. She peeked sideways to see if the handsome man in the blue shirt was still watching her, hoping he wasn’t. She didn’t want him to see the disappointment in her eyes as a result of her own rash decisions. Unlucky for her, the handsome man was still watching, although his smile had gone and his arms were crossed over his broad chest.

No, Darcy thought to herself, focusing on the man in front of her—her Mr. Huber. This was a good thing. Appearances could be deceiving. Whatever might happen, life as the wife of this frontiersman would be better than life as a drudge back East or as a saloon girl. She forced herself to smile and take as sunny a view of the situation as she could.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you at last, Mr. Huber. I’ve been looking forward to it for weeks and weeks now,” she said, extending her hand to him.

Conrad Huber did not take her hand. He didn’t say a word. He scrunched up his nose and paced in a circle around her. Darcy stood perfectly still, holding her breath, smile plastered in place… dread itching its way down her back.

When Conrad came to a stop in front of her, he sniffed and said, “Nope. Too small. I don’t want you. Give me my money back.”

“What?” Darcy blinked, jaw dropping.

“The twenty dollars I sent you to get your sorry self out here,” Conrad went on. “I want it back.”

“But… but I don’t have it. I used it to pay for the stagecoach. That’s why you sent it to me.” Panic bubbled through her.

“Too bad,” he said. “You owe me. I want my money. You find it somehow and bring it to me.” He turned his back on her and started to walk over to his friend, who now wore a mean grin.

“Wait, Mr. Huber,” Darcy called after him, her heart beating in her throat.

Conrad stopped and twisted back to her with a grimace.

“I’m not too small,” Darcy insisted, a little more breathless than she wanted to be. “I might be short and slight, but I’m a hard worker and I’m strong. I’ve been working as a maid this past year and at a shop before that. I can do whatever you need me to do.”

“I doubt that,” he said, snorting then spitting.

The action turned Darcy’s stomach, but she had no choice but to press her case. “I can cook too. I cooked for my family before they died.”

“They die because of your cooking?” the other man asked, adding a vicious grin to his question.

“No, there was an epidemic of influenza.” Darcy choked back the grief of her memories and rushed on. “I can mend and sew too. And knit socks if you need them. That’s what your advertisement said you wanted.”

Conrad huffed. “I want someone who can cook and clean in a mining camp. It’s tough work. You don’t look like you got the mettle for it.”

“I do, I—”

“’sides, what if I decide I want sons? You look like birthing them would split you in two. Makin’ ’em too.”

Darcy recoiled. She’d assumed she’d end up fulfilling all of the duties of a wife, all of them, but the sudden thought of doing that with this man was almost as bad as the looks Mr. Tavener had given her.

No, she reminded herself again. It would be different if she was Conrad’s wife. It would be respectable, even if it was unpleasant. Respect outweighed the alternative, even if Conrad was… Conrad.

“I would be a good wife to you,” Darcy said, out of arguments. “I will be a good wife to you.”

Conrad gave her one more sweeping look, then shook his head and said, “Nope. All I want from you is my money.”

“But—”

“Don’t you think of goin’ nowhere ’til you get it to me neither.”

“I don’t have your money,” she called after him. “I don’t have any money.”

“Come on,” the other man said. “Let’s go get a drink.”

It was too late. Darcy could do nothing as Conrad walked away.

 

And yep, you can zip on over to Amazon to purchase Trail Blaze right now! Better still, if you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited, it’s free. *wiggles eyebrows*

Excerpt Wednesday – Trail of Destiny – Father & Daughter

Mar 25, 2015

It’s Excerpt Wednesday! And since I just love scenes between fathers and daughters, why not one of those?

TrailofDestiny_3D

He took it as his coughing fit subsided and drank as if no one had given him water for days. At least she knew that wasn’t the case. Why, Jarvis had brought the jug of water to him just a few hours—

She sighed and sat heavily in her chair. Jarvis again. She needed to be more careful about where her thoughts went when she wasn’t paying attention.

“Hmm,” her father hummed, setting aside the glass. “My dear, I’ve heard you sigh many times since we left New York and before. That sigh was different.” He arched one eyebrow, a signal for her to confess.

“I suppose it’s because I’m tired from work,” she said, unable to meet his eyes. Her hands fussed with the black of her skirt.

“Hmm.” The way he hummed this time made Alice certain she’d been caught doing something wrong. “This passel of young men we’ve found ourselves stuck with haven’t been rude to you, have they?”

“Oh no, they’ve been very kinds,” she answered, a little too quickly, if her father’s knowing grin was any indication. “I mean, they haven’t been any more or less kind than they should be.”

“I see.” Her father nodded, his smile growing wider.

She was in trouble, all right. Her father was the most brilliant man she knew. Nothing escaped his observation. Unfortunately.

“Where is that nice Mr. Flint who has been instrumental in taking care of me?” he asked.

“Jarvis is outside, training with the rest of his outfit,” she answered, again too fast. She cursed herself inwardly. Whatever this was, it was happening far too soon.

“He and I had an interesting conversation this morning when you were out there helping in the fort’s kitchen,” her father went on.

“Oh?” she asked, too shaky to look at him.

“Yes. He’s a bright young man with a variety of prospects. And he seems to like you.”

She forced a laugh and risked meeting her father’s eyes. “I like him. I like all of the militiamen. They’re so different from the men I knew back in New York. They’re not as sophisticated or educated, but they’re brave and strong and helpful.”

“Some more than others?”

Alice huffed out a breath. She couldn’t let this war of hints go on any longer.

“Papa. Harry gave his life for what he believed in. He was brave and strong and helpful too. I married him. I love him. He hasn’t been gone for more than a year.” She swallowed the well of grief that pushed up through her chest.

“I know, my dear, I know.” Her father’s tone changed to sad and full of regret. He patted her hand, but was prevented from doing or saying more as another round of coughing seized him.

Alice refilled his glass of water and handed him a handkerchief, glad that her troubles could be ignored for a moment. Her father seemed so tired when he was through coughing that she stood and reached for her broom.

“I should let you rest,” she told him.

Her father hummed in response and rested his head against the pillows behind him. Alice turned to go.

“Don’t be so quick to hold onto grief, my dear,” he said before she could get away.

She turned back to him with a frown. “I’m not holding onto grief, Papa. It’s holding on to me.”

“Yes, well, maybe there’s someone else for you to hold onto out there,” he said.

A burst of frustration squeezed her gut. “Don’t get any ideas, Papa. Love is something that only happens once. I’ve had my chance, and I wouldn’t trade that for the world.”

“Good girl,” her father said, more than a little drowsy. “But just because you’ve loved once, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t at least try something new to see what happens.”

His words left prickles on her skin. “Try something new?” The image of strong arms and fast legs and long hair let loose instead of restrained in a ponytail flashed to her mind.

“We are in a new land, after all,” her father reasoned. “Who knows what’s waiting for us out here? Just keep yourself open to finding it.”

Guess what? You can pre-order Trail of Destiny already! It’s on Amazon here or for your Nook reader here or on iBooks here.